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12 Mar 2008 11:12
Inter Milan’s ill discipline cost them again as Liverpool won 1-0 at the San Siro on Tuesday to progress to the Champions League quarterfinals 3-0 on aggregate.
Nicolas Burdisso was sent off just five minutes into the second half of the second-round, second-leg tie—just as Marco Materazzi saw red in the first half of the first leg—to scupper the Italian champions’ hopes of reaching the next round.
It means that for the first time four English clubs have reached the last eight of Europe’s premier competition—with Barcelona, AS Roma, Shalke 04 and Fenerbahce making up the numbers alongside Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.
It was also the second time in a week that an English club had won on the San Siro pitch, following Arsenal’s 2-0 success over AC Milan seven days earlier.
“I think that shows the quality of the Premier League,” opined Liverpool’s Spanish coach Rafa Benitez.
Spanish international Fernando Torres scored the only goal of the game on 64 minutes with a clinical turn and finish from just inside the box.
“I don’t think anyone will want to play us in the last eight,” said Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard, who saluted Torres.
“We’re lucky to have Fernando—he only needs one chance,” Gerrard told Sky Sports, while adding that Benitez’s men deserved their win.
“Up to the sending off it was a difficult game [but] I think we controlled the game and we deserved to go through.”
Defensive stalwart Jamie Carragher said Liverpool knew exactly what was expected of them and called ultimately on their experience to deliver.
“We knew if we kept a clean sheet we were through,” Carragher said.
Liverpool had made a nervous start to the match and played like the Wimbledon of old—only a hotchpotch eclectic foreign mixed version.
Argentine forward Julio Cruz forced Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina into a brilliant one-handed save low to his right after just nine minutes.
Inter were clearly the better side early on and Liverpool looked in disarray—but they managed to hold firm at the back.
Inter forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic said luck had not been on his team’s side.
“We didn’t have any luck, like the first leg,” he said. “With a man down we did our best; we couldn’t have done any more.
“We didn’t score, we kept pushing but nothing.
Now we’ll concentrate on the league and the cup.”
On 25 minutes Liverpool fashioned a decent counter-attack as Ryan Babel chased on to a long ball from Fabio Aurelio, but was beaten to it by Inter goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
The game started to open up into a thrilling cup tie and a slip from Esteban Cambiasso allowed Torres to break into the box, but Julio Cesar saved at his near post.
On the half-hour mark Inter should have gone in front after a lovely pass from Zlatan Ibrahimovic released Cruz into the box to the left of goal.
Had he looked up he might have seen Dejan Stankovic unmarked in the centre with an open goal at his mercy but instead the Argentine fired wide.
Stankovic was understandably livid.
Inter’s chances of progressing took a drastic hit in the 50th minute when Argentine defender Burdisso stupidly got himself sent-off for a second booking.
His first came on 34 minutes when he deliberately brought down Kuyt and the second from a reckless challenge on Brazilian midfielder Leiva Lucas.
Liverpool did their best to help Inter as Czech centre-back Martin Skrtel gave a suicidal pass straight to Ibrahimovic on the edge of the box, but in identical fashion to the first-half opportunity, the Sweden forward fired wide instead of squaring for the free Cruz.
On the hour mark Julio Cesar had to be alert to tip over a vicious free-kick from Gerrard.
Just four minutes later came Torres’s goal.
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