In the words of Bert van Marwijk speaking immediately after the game, ‘We aren’t there yet. We have set a good step. But we lost three people.’ Ono and Rzasa are suspended, while Kalou limped off in the last five minutes with what the trainer fears is a serious injury.
Feyenoord were given a great boost ahead of kick-off, when Patrick Paauwe was declared fit, so the Rotterdam outfit started with their strongest eleven against an Inter side that were perhaps taking the game too lightly after all. Ronaldo was kept on the bench, which was no surprise, but the exclusion of Seedorf was puzzling, considering the Dutchman’s current form. Goalgetter Vieri was even given a cosy seat in the stands.
The Inter fans also seemed incapable of getting hot under the collar at the thought of a European semifinal and the game was scored by the Legion, who never stopped singing.
The game started brightly and both sides had a gilt-edged chance early on. First Van Persie sent over a free kick from the edge of the box. The ball was met by Paauwe at the far post and his header found Van Hooijdonk free in front of an open goal, but the striker managed to scoop his effort over the bar.
Then within seconds Inter created a dangerous opportunity themselves. Paauwe cleared Conceicao’s effort from the line and gratefully saw how Kallon ballooned over when it was easier to net.
Kalou was obviously enjoying himself in San Siro and he threatened every time he had the ball. He was the source of much of Feyenoord’s best play and the Inter fans were audibly nervous whenever he got the ball.
Feyenoord reached half time with their goal in tact. Although Van Marwijk must have been satisfied with the clean sheet his side had earned in the first fort-five minutes, he must also have realised how vital it was to get a goal. The thought of taking on Inter in the Kuip without an away goal was frightening.
The big minuses in the first period were the yellow cards for Ono and Rzasa, who now both miss the second leg. That disappointment was all washed away within five minutes of the restart however. Paul Bosvelt raced through the midfield before dispatching the ball to Pierre van Hooijdonk on the right. The striker pulled inside and let rip and when the ball hit Cordoba it deflected into the back of the net to give Feyenoord a not undeserved lead.
The goal gave Feyenoord new élan and the visitors started to take control of the game. Seedorf and Ronaldo came on, but it was clear that the Brazilian was far from fit, and anyway it was too little too late. Feyenoord it was who should have went two up when Van Hooijdonk rasped a free kick against the bar. Although Ventola went close twice near the end, it was clearly a red and white night and not a blue and black one. If you have a ticket for the second leg, count yourself very, very lucky.
Internazionale-Feyenoord 0-1 (0-0)
51’ 0-1 Cordoba (o.g.)
Internazionale: Fontana; Simic, Materazzi, Cordoba Gresko ; Conceicao, DiBiago, Emre (56’Seedorf), Guglielminpietro (78’ Recoba), Kallon (70’ Ronaldo), Ventola
Feyenoord: Zoetebier: Emerton, Van Wonderen, Paauwe, Rzasa; Kalou (85’ Aros), Bosvelt, Ono, Van Persie (82’ Elmander); Tomasson, Van Hooijdonk.
Referee: Michel (Cz)
Yellow cards: Ono, Rzasa, Materazzi