By David Rodich
Inter prevailed Tuesday in what turned out to be a classic Champions League matchup – two giant European powerhouse clubs fighting in the end over one goal that had the power to fully tear the victory from one side and hand it to the other.
Bayern Munchen worked for 90 minutes in Milan in the first leg of this matchup for their goal. Within the first four minutes of the second leg Inter made all of that work irrelevant – tying the aggregate and away goals tally – with an Eto’o shot past goalkeeper Thomas Kraft.
After the early goal, Bayern slowly took hold of the momentum, and by the end of the half were holding shooting practice on the Inter goal. They got two for their efforts but could have easily had twice as many. The first came when Cesar mishandled a Robben shot – leaving the on-form Gomez to flick it back overhead into the net. The second was produced in the 31st off another Robben deflection – this time a pass – that fell to Thomas Muller who coolly finished over the charging Brazilian keeper.
Inter faced a mountain of a second half – down two in the aggregate, away in Munich. The defending champs answered the call though. Spurred on by the brilliance of Eto’o and Sneijder, they stepped up their pressure and clawed their way back into the match. First came the goal from Sneijder in the 63rd minute – the streaking Dutchman one-timing an Eto’o pass straight into the far corner. The Nerazzurri were now only a goal down, but with the away goals tie-breaker on their side, it would be a goal that would completely bypass a tie and give them the win.
The pressure was fantastic in the Allianz Arena. For almost thirty minutes that one potential goal hung in the balance, and with just one minute of regulation time to spare, Eto’o again created an opportunity – this time laying the ball off to the Macedonian Goran Pandev who smashed it home to send his side to the Champions League quarterfinals.
A true nail-biter, this match was decided on defensive lapses, a bit of luck, a clutch finish from Goran Pandev and standout performances from Inter’s big names – Samuel Eto’o and Wesley Sneijder. Even taking into consideration Bayern’s thinned out central defense, it was still an enormous feat to come back from a two goal deficit against such a powerful side, on such unfriendly soil. Credit to the Nerazzurri for their hard-fought comeback victory.
All eyes will now be on Nyon, Switzerland for Friday’s draw to determine the quarterfinal matchups among the remaining eight: Inter, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Schalke, Shakhtar Donetsk, Chelsea and Tottenham.