Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi admitted he had only previously dreamt about his team reaching the final four of the Champions League.
The Nerazzurri were drawn into what was considered a ‘group of death’ earlier in the tournament when they were put in with Bayern Munich and Barcelona, making it through as runners-up ahead of the LaLiga giants.
Inter beat Benfica 5-3 on aggregate following a 3-3 draw at San Siro in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, meaning they will face city rivals Milan in the semis for the first time since the 2002-03 season, while it will also be the first time the two will meet five times in one season.
“There is great happiness,” Inzaghi said after the game. “We played a great game against a difficult team.
“We fully deserved this semi-final, which before was only a dream. I’m happy for the boys and for our progress. We started with a very difficult group with Barcelona and Bayern Munich. We work every day to experience these evenings.”
1 – AC Milan and Inter will meet in 5 matches in the same season for the first time in the history. Derby.#UCL #InterBenfica pic.twitter.com/yikIXGpX5G
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) April 19, 2023
Their passage to the semis of the Champions League for the first time since they won the competition in 2009-10 should relieve some pressure on Inzaghi, who has come in for criticism for the team’s league form, having not won any of their last five games in Serie A, losing four.
“Critics aren’t a problem,” he insisted. “I know where they come from. Some speak well, some speak bad.”
Federico Dimarco had a productive game down the Inter left against Benfica, providing six open-play crosses – twice as many as any other player – and claiming assists for Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa after Nicolo Barella had earlier given the hosts the lead.
Roger Schmidt’s men equalised Barella’s goal through Frederik Aursnes, before late efforts from Antonio Silva and Petar Musa levelled things again.
“We’re very happy, it’s been many years since Inter made it to the semi-finals,” Dimarco told Amazon Prime. “There’s still one step left to get to the end.
“We played well, apart from some lack of attention for their goals. The assists? I worked all week for this, the important thing is that the team wins.
When asked about the prospect of facing Milan, he replied: “Let’s think about the other matches first. I’m calm, there’s still one step left for us to move forward.”
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