Inter exit with pride as eight advance to Europa quarters
The second leg of the Europa league round of 16 provided an entertaining path into the quarter finals, as eight teams progressed in some surprising and nail-biting circumstances.
Following a 3-0 defeat away to Tottenham last week, Inter Milan were considered by most to be ‘playing for pride’, a phrase echoed by President Massimo Moratti following last week’s disappointing performance.
However, with Gareth Bale a notable absentee, the game of pride would became the tie of the round as Inter took to the match with a new found enthusiasm.
Antonio Cassano struck first from a Rodrigo Palacio cross, before provider turned finisher as Palacio pounced on a wonderful Esteban Cambiasso through ball, to make it 2-0.
Incredibly, Inter drew level on aggregate in the 74th minute, with Cassano’s free-kick deflecting off a William Gallas attempted clearance, turned own goal.
Inter almost stole the tie as Cambiasso beat the keeper with a shot, only for the ball to despairingly rolling centimetres wide.
After 90 minutes, extra time began with aggregate scores locked at 3-3. Seven minutes in, Emannuel Adebayor broke Nerazzuri hearts, pouncing on a loose ball following a Samir Handanovic save off a Moussa Dembele shot.
A 110th minute (aggregate) equaliser for Ricardo Alvarez was not enough to salvage the tie, Tottenham surviving a stunning fight-back to progress through.
With aggregate scores finishing at 4-4, some Inter fans may have been left with somewhat of a bitter taste, with the extra time away goal paving the way for their Europa exit.
While somewhat accepted across both the home and away fixture, questions as to whether this should apply in extra-time have reared its head.
With, technically, the home and away fixtures over, it seems a fairer process that extra-time allow a clean slate.
It does not necessarily seem just that Tottenham, in effect, had the advantage of an away goal rule for an additional 30 minutes, irrespective of playing away from home.
However, this may be an argument for another day, Inter bowing out with their heads held high.
Serie A’s other Europa team, Lazio, were hoping to put their poor Italian league form behind them at home to Stuttgart.
Ahead 2-0 after last week’s win in Stuttgart, Lazio had all but progressed after just ten minutes, Libor Kozák scoring twice in three minutes to put the game out of reach of the struggling Bundesliga side.
Kozák would go on to notch a hat-trick as Lazio progressed 5-1 on aggregate, winning 3-1.
In a more even affair, Newcastle hosted the big spending Anzhi Makhachkala, following last week’s stalemate in Russia.
The game looked likely to be a repeat, with chances scarce throughout the St James fixture. As 90 minutes approached, Anzhi went within centimetres of progressing through with an away goal, after Moubarak Boussoufa’s stunning free-kick came off the inside of the post.
Newcastle would take full advantage of the miss in the very last seconds of the game, where a Sylvain Marveaux cross found none other than Papiss Cissé behind the defensive line with a free header to take Newcastle into the last eight.
Newcastle’s progression provided some much needed joy to the Toon faithful where, despite a small 2013 resurgence, United have struggled to re-emulate the heights of last season, sitting 13th in the Premier League.
Steaua Bucharest was looking to make life as difficult as possible for Chelsea, following the Romanians’ surprise 1-0 win at home.
Things were looking bleak for Rafa Benitez and co., with Steaua notching a scrappy but vital away goal on 45 minutes, after going down to a 34th minute Juan Mata goal.
Needing two goals to progress, Chelsea turned on the charm, with John Terry heading home to equalise the aggregate score and a superb finish from Fernando Torres on 71 minutes, enough to progress (3-2), winning 3-1 on the night.
180 minutes could not produce a single goal for Rubin Kazan or Levante, with the tie going to extra time at 0-0 aggregate scores. Rubin re-found their goal-scoring ability, scoring two goals to progress through.
After winning 2-0 in Switzerland, FC Basil were able to somehow hold on to an aggregate lead over Zenit St Petersburg, to progress 2-1.
After a 30th minute goal, Zenit were looking the better team, however proceeded to watch three incredible goal scoring chances come to nothing, with a shocking miss in-front of goal, a shot off the bar and a saved penalty amounting to nothing.
A 1-0 win for Zenit, not enough to go through.
In other matches, Benfica was able to finish off a home and away double against Bordeaux, progressing 4-2 on aggregate, whilst a 1-1 draw for Fenerbahҫe was enough to send Viktoria Plzen out of the competition.