Maestro Mourinho makes sweet music in Milan derby
The Milan derby is like opening night at La Scala: the performers can enter to a rapturous welcome but by eveningÃ¢ÂÂs end they may be showered in flowers or boos.
The San Siro is the Milanese fanÃ¢ÂÂs equivalent to the famous opera house in the centre of the city Ã¢ÂÂ both venues can get particularly rowdy with the loggionisti and ultras voicing displeasure in equal measure at a missed note or misplaced pass.
They can also inspire soloists to greatness, but it was the nine-man Inter orchestra that drew the standing ovation and swooning praise as the mist descended over the towering edifice on a frigid evening.
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That said, it was really the conductor who should take a bow after a virtuoso performance.
You knew that Maestro Mourinho was up to something when he started praising Leonardo on the eve of the game Ã¢ÂÂ and even had time to give his opposite number a little hug before kick-off.
"Da da-da-da diddle DAAA!!!"
However, once the action commenced, the Portuguese was imposing his vision on how the evening should progress Ã¢ÂÂ the tempo high, the beat relentless, which unsettled the opposition from the first minute.
Touts had been asking up to 200 Euros for tickets behind either goal, and were getting it from the Japanese and Dutch (a lot more relaxed than their compatriot Wesley Sneijder would turn out to be) who had joined the locals to fill the grand stadium.
The encounter was worth the price Ã¢ÂÂ with both teams demonstrating that Italian football can still produce a passionate showpiece when the world is watching.
David Beckham booked inside two minutes, Sneijder on his way before the half-hour mark; it would be those with the cool heads of the Milan derby experience who would profit.
"Was it something I said?" "Yes."
There's no doubt that Mourinho had his players primed as never before and even after SneijderÃ¢ÂÂs tirade at the referee drew a red card, you'd never have known that they were a man down unless you took a head count.
His leads filled the stage Ã¢ÂÂ from Lucio to Javier Zanetti, a cool and collected Esteban Cambiasso, a revitalised Goran Pandev and a princely Diego Milito.
Milan, on the contrary, were flat and lacked the fluid rhythm of late.
Maybe some of them had started to believe the hype surrounding a side that could never stand alongside some of its predecessors.
Certainly Leonardo lacked the settling presence of Alessandro Nesta more than Mourinho mourned Samuel EtoÃ¢ÂÂo or Dejan Stankovic.
When Ronaldinho needed to shine and show the folks back home that he's worth his place in the SeleÃÂ§ÃÂ£o he was the one to drop the baton.
And as the Brazilian saw his compatriot Julio Cesar save his penalty, it was Mourinho waving his arms maniacally who held the crowd in a final sing-along before Marco Materazzi produced his own party piece, donning a Silvio Berlusconi face-mask in celebration.
After a pulsating night, the black and blue dawn brings the sobering realisation that the title has all the makings of a waltz for Inter and their majestic maestro.
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