Inter Milan advanced to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2011 after drawing 0-0 with Porto at Estadio do Dragao on Tuesday night.
The Italians went into the game with a one-goal advantage after the first leg and held firm in the second to defend their lead.
Porto were the better side on the night, and when they did find a rare path beyond the resilient Inter defence, weren’t clinical enough in front of goal.
Porto came out of the blocks quickest in the first half as they searched for an opener to level the tie, but the game quickly depleted as both sides showed poor quality in front of goal. Despite the drop in quality, Porto finished the first half in the same way they started it – on top.
The best chance in the opening 45 minutes fell to Evanilson shortly before the break. After a brilliant, flowing Porto move Stephen Eustaquio fed the Brazilian who tried to get a shot away as the goal opened up, but Federico Dimarco came across to produce a sensational block to deny him.
The second half was much the same as the first. Porto were on top, enjoyed more of the ball, and threatened Inter’s defensive third relentlessly, but they couldn’t quite get it right in front of goal.
The game was full of half-chances as Inter defended brilliantly to protect goalkeeper Andre Onana, but a string of big opportunities fell to the hosts in the final minutes of the game as Porto were denied by the woodwork twice.
Denzel Dumfries came to Inter’s aid when he cleared Ivan Marcano’s scrappy close-range effort off the line. With the ball still alive, Marcano was back involved and set up Mehdi Taremi in front of goal, whose header was pushed onto the post by Onana.
Seconds later, the ball was recycled by Porto again, and this time Marko Grujic rose highest to beat Onana with a header, but could only watch as his effort crashed off the bar.
26-year-old right-back Pepe was sent off the final stages as tempers began to boil over and he was issued a second yellow card.
Romelu Lukaku scored the only goal in the tie, coming off the bench in the game at San Siro to snatch a 96th-minute winner to see Inter into the last eight.
TALKING POINT – DEFENSIVE MASTERCLASS EARNS INTER QF SPOT
It’s been 12 years since Inter Milan reached the last eight of the Champions League, and they did it with a retro Inter display. Porto played quite well and did create a few chances, but they never looked convincing in front of goal and a lot of that is down to the defensive work from Simone Inzaghi’s side tonight. They were switched on at all times.
The hosts clearly began to run out of ideas as Inter stood firm, and although some might say the Italians rode their luck towards the end with the woodwork digging them out of trouble – they actually made their own luck. Ok, they got away with Grujic’s last-minute effort which crashed off the bar from the striker’s header, but before that Dumfries had made a vital goal-line clearance and Onana produced a great save to tip Teremi’s effort onto the post.
A brilliant, hard-fought, well-organised defensive display earned Inter a spot in the quarter-finals.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – MARKO GRUJIC (PORTO)
The midfielder had a great game and was incredibly unfortunate not to have stolen a dramatic winner on the night with the effort that crashed off the bar in the 97th minute.
He created the most chances in the game (4) and won the most duals (10), which showed the quality of his all-round game – offensively and defensively.
PORTO: Costa 7, Pepe 6, Cardoso 7, Marcano 7, Zaidu 7, Grujic 8, Uribe 7, Eustaquio 6, Galeno 6, Taremi 6, Evanilson 7
Subs: Franco 6, Wendell N/A, Martinez 6, Loader N/A
INTER: Onana 8, Darmian 6, Acerbi 7, Bastoni 7, Dumfries 7, Barella 7, Calhanoglu 7, Mkhitaryan 7, Dimarco 6, Dzeko 6, Martinez 7
Subs: De Vrij 6, D’Ambrosio 6, Skriniar 6, Brozovic 6, Lukaku 7
3’ – PORTO GO CLOSE FROM LONG-RANGE! The ball bobbles towards Mateus Uribe from around 30 yards out and he strikes it first time, but it fizzes past Onana’s goal.
19’ – CHANCE FOR PORTO! Zaidu Sanusi troubles Dumfries on Porto’s left flank and finds Eustaquio on the edge of the box, whose low shot is just wide of the near post.
40’ – BEST CHANCE OF THE GAME! A brilliant, flowing Porto move ends with Eustaquio feeding Evanilson, who tries to get a shot away as the goal opens up, but Dimarco comes across and makes a sensational block to deny him!
83’ – INTER COME CLOSE TO AN OPENER! Lukaku weaves his way into the box before getting a scrappy shot away with his left foot, which almost falls in front of goal to Martinez’s feet before Pepe is able to hook it clear!
90’+5 – HOW HAVE PORTO NOT SCORED?! Marcano gets a close-range shot away, and Dumfries gets it off the line. Quickly after that, Taremi’s header hits the post after Onana gets a hand to the ball, but as Inter struggle to clear the ball, Porto recycle it and Grujic’s header comes off the bar! Extraordinary scenes in Portugal.
90’+6 – PEPE IS SENT OFF! He’s given a second yellow as the game began to boil over and is sent off.
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