ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates: Inter Milan won the Club World Cup with a comfortable 3-0 victory over TP Mazembe in the final on Saturday to end the surprising run of the African champions.
”It was not an easy game because everyone was putting pressure on us that we had to win and do it well. Some of the football players were tired,” Benitez said.
”But we wanted to do well and we trusted we could do it. We wanted to win and we did it.”
The victory gave Benitez vindication to attack an alleged lack of support from Inter officials amid widespread speculation in the Italian media of his firing and possible replacements, including England manager Fabio Capello who was at the match.
Club president Massimo Moratti gave Benitez an ultimatum to win the Club World Cup, and armed with the FIFA title, the visibly relieved coach hit back.
He said he held a meeting before and after the final with Moratti and demanded Inter buy ”three or four more players” in order to salvage their season. If not, he said he envisioned either muddling through the season or ”consulting a lawyer.”
”From my side, there is no problem,” Benitez said. ”I am very happy. I’m a professional who works 100 percent for the club. I want the support which I haven’t gotten so far. That’s all. If we have new players, I’m sure the club will improve significantly.”
Inter captured its third world club title following success in 1964 and ’65. It added to this year’s historic treble of the Italian league, cup, and Champions League under Jose Mourinho, plus the Italian Supercup to start this season.
Inter players said the Club World Cup capped ”an amazing year” and many singled out Mourinho, rather than Benitez, for the team’s success.
”It was a truly extraordinary and unforgettable year. Let’s hope everyone remains fit for the rest of the season,” striker Diego Milito said. ”It is thanks to Mourinho that we were able to arrive to this point. He remains important to us.”
Captain Javier Zanetti, on the team’s website, said ”no Italian team has ever done what Inter have managed in 2010 and all the Inter fans should be proud of this side.”
”Now this team can fight it out against anybody, when it is at full strength,” he said. ”Only (Walter) Samuel is missing and we dedicate this evening’s trophy to him.”
Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o chipped a pass to forward Goran Pandev, who opened the scoring in the 13th minute.
Eto’o add the second himself four minutes later when he picked up a loose ball in the area and slotted it home. He rushed to the sideline for a celebratory dance with teammates.
Eto’o, who was named player of the tournament, bagged his 19th goal in 23 games for Inter and his first since Nov. 21.
The scoreline could been even higher in the first half, if not for the exploits of Mazembe goalkeeper Muteba Kidiaba, who twice denied Milito at close range.
Mazembe, which upset Pachuca of Mexico in the quarterfinals and Copa Libertadores champion Internacional of Brazil in the semifinals to become the first African side to reach the final, looked rattled from the start.
The team from Congo was unable to break down the Inter defense and several players became visibly frustrated, picking up yellow cards.
One comical scene featured midfielder Amia Ekanga clearly diving in the area in an attempt to get a penalty, then jumping up and running straight into an Inter player.
He fell to the ground clutching his face, a show that got him the team’s third yellow of the half.
Coach Lamine N’Diaye, a former Senegalese footballer who took over the team midway through its African Champions League campaign, said Mazembe simply ran out of gas in the final and committed too many mental mistakes.
”I am sad for this loss. We were planning to have a better match,” he said.
”We committed many mistakes tactically in the beginning of the match which cost us two goals. The team was tired and exhausted. We needed one more day for rest to retain our fitness. Inter was better than us and they deserved to win.”
Even so, the team was praised across Africa for drawing attention to football on the continent which has already seen its stock rise following the 2010 World Cup in South Africa where Ghana nearly made it to the semifinals.
”This shows the development of the level that African club football has reached,” said Musa Amadu, acting secretary general of the Nigerian Football Federation.
”It shows that African clubs and African players even in Africa can stand against their counterparts anywhere in the world if they are given sufficient encouragement.”