Diego Milito thought he’d done enough to force extra time, but Inter again conceded in stoppages and crash out of the Champions League to Olympique Marseille. A 2-1 win allowed the French club to reach the quarter-finals on away goals.
The Nerazzurri lost the first leg 1-0 with the last touch of the game, but on Friday finally ended their run of two points from nine games by beating Chievo 2-0. Claudio Ranieri was without the suspended Cristian Chivu and injured Ricky Alvarez, while Andrea Ranocchia was only fit for the bench.
Andrea Poli made his Champions League debut, as Esteban Cambiasso was dropped for the second match running. Wesley Sneijder took the trequartista role behind Diego Forlan and Milito. Didier Deschamps’ Marseille had lost their last four consecutive games without scoring a goal and missed Andre-Pierre Gignac, but welcomed back Stephane Mbia, top scorer Loic Remy and Mathieu Valbuena from injury.
It was an aggressive start from OM, as Yuto Nagatomo had to intercept a poor pass for the unmarked Valbuena, but Inter had a fantastic chance to open the scoring on eight minutes.
Javier Zanetti got to the by-line and pulled back for Sneijder, whose shot from seven yards was straight at goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.
Moments later there was a strange finish from Milito, who tried to chest the Sneijder cross into the net, forcing Mandanda into a brilliant save from point-blank range.
Remy’s header whistled wide from a Cesar Azpilicueta cross from the right, while Zanetti did well to muscle Andre Ayew off the ball just inside the box.
Jeremy Morel attempted a screamer that flashed across the face of goal. Sneijder’s free kick was curled over the wall, but plucked out of the air by Mandanda, while in first half stoppages Forlan’s glancing header went wide.
There was an altercation in the box as players waited for an Inter corner in the second half and Walter Samuel was booked for the shove. Dejan Stankovic did not get his head firmly to the Sneijder set piece.
Ranieri made a double substitution, replacing Sneijder and Forlan with Joel Obi and Giampaolo Pazzini for a 4-4-2 system. Neither player looked happy with the move and the Uruguayan went straight down into the tunnel.
Poli earned a free kick just outside the box that Stankovic fired over. Marseille went considerably closer, as their free kick was nodded down by Alou Diarra for Julio Cesar to palm it off the line at the base of the far post.
Cambiasso was the final substitution and moments later Inter finally battered down the Marseille wall. A corner found Cambiasso for a wayward shot that turned into an assist for Pazzini, charged down from six yards, and the loose ball was prodded home by Milito at the back post.
This goal levelled the scores on aggregate and set the tie up for extra time, but if Marseille were to get an away goal, Inter would require a 3-1 win to qualify.
Mandanda fingertipped a Douglas Maicon free kick out from under the bar, then a cross took a large bounce off the turf, making it impossible for Cambiasso to nod in from six yards. Another Maicon free kick was well over and Julio Cesar plucked a cross off the head of substitute Brandao.
However, just as in the first leg, Inter conceded at the death. A long goal kick was not dealt with by Lucio, so Brandao turned and fired low past Julio Cesar, who went the wrong way.
It still wasn’t over, as Mandanda came tearing off his line to bring down Pazzini for a penalty and second yellow card. The atmosphere was strange during this spot-kick, as it was the last move of the game, so Pazzini’s emphatic finish was futile.
Inter 2-1 Marseille (2-2 on agg)
Scorers: Milito 75 (I), Brandao 92 (M), Pazzini pen 96 (I)
Inter: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Nagatomo; Zanetti, Stankovic, Poli (Cambiasso 74); Sneijder (Obi 58); Forlan (Pazzini 58), Milito
Olympique Marseille: Mandanda; Azpilicueta, Diawara, N’Koulou, Morel; Diarra, Mbia; Amalfitano, Valbuena (Cheyrou 76), A Ayew (Bracigliano 95); Remy (Brandao 87)
Sent off: Mandanda 93 (M)