Inter punish naive Bayern

Eto'o Inter-vened early for the holders. Photo wikimedia/SteindyAllianz Arena, Munich - Holders Inter Milan staged a remarkable second-half recovery to send a shell-shocked FC Bayern München stumbling out of the Champions League in a dramatic game.

Macedonian Goran Pandev curled home the decisive goal with just two minutes of normal time remaining as Inter won the game 3-2 and reached the quarter-finals on away goals. It's only the second time in Champions League history that a side has overturned a first-leg home defeat to progress.

Bayern recovered from a nightmare start after Samuel Eto'o beat the offside trap to fire the Nerazzurri ahead on just three minutes. The prolific Cameroonian striker latched onto a Pandev through ball and clinically beat the onrushing Reds keeper Thomas Kraft. The early strike from Eto'o nullified the advantage from the first-leg in the San Siro.

Another howler by Inter's goalkeeper Julio Cesar looked to have turned the tie in the German side's favour again. Cesar failed to hold a fierce shot from Dutch winger Arjen Robben on 21 minutes. Top scorer Mario Gomez was first on the scene, in similar fashion to the first-leg to mop up the spillage, levelling on the night and handing the German champions a 2-1 aggregate advantage. Gomez and Eto'o top the Champions League scoring charts with 8 goals, alongside a certain Lionel Messi.

Bayern were in wonderland ten minutes later when Thomas Müller took advantage of a Lucio error to seemingly put the tie out of Inter's reach. Lucio, the former FCB defender, deflected into Müller's path and the German international finished with aplomb. The home side were seemingly coasting into the last eight of the elite. Inter were bickering amongst themselves and looked a ragged outfit.

However, FCB failed to finish off the holders. Franck Ribéry should have sealed the deal moments later when clean through one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Cesar produced a fine save to deny the Frenchman.

Inter survived another major scare before the break as Gomez stretched to get a touch to Ribéry's ball to the back post and hooked it back across goal. With the ball agonisingly trickling along the goal-line Andrea Ranocchia just got to it ahead of Müller and knocked it against the German onto the inside of the post before it somehow went to safety.

Inter Milan, Serie A's sole representatives remaining in European competitions, who beat the Bavarians 2-0 in last year's final in Madrid, looked down and out. The half-time whistle could not come quick enough for the visitors.

Bayern were seemingly cruising to a deserved success but were left rueing their first-half profligacy in front of goal as the Reds' fragile defence was ruthlessly exposed by the battling reigning champions.

The game turned in a two minute spell just after the hour mark. Ribéry, arguably man of the match, turned on the turbo to set up Gomez, whose fierce volley was acrobatically parried by Cesar, perhaps atoning for his earlier mistake(s).

Out-of-the-blue, Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder grabbed a lifeline for Inter on 63 minutes, slotting home from 20 yards from the angle after a tidy lay off from Eto'o to reduce the arrears.

Robben was soon sacrificed for Hamit Altintop as the Reds clung nervously onto their slender 3-2 aggregate advantage. All season, the German champions' Achilles heel has been their suspect defence and once again it was cruelly exposed at just the wrong time on 88 minutes.

Breno allowed Eto'o the freedom of Fröttmaning and the African superstar laid the ball across the box to strike-partner Pandev, who fired an unstoppable left-footed shot into the roof of the net to complete a remarkable comeback.

Bayern were left distraught and devastated, a mood not dissimilar to that witnessed after the last-minute collapse in the 1999 Champions League final against Manchester United in Barcelona.

"Our defence is not Champions League-worthy," said a bitterly disappointed Arjen Robben, whilst Chairman of the Board Karl-Heinz Rummenigge exclaimed: "That was a dagger through the heart."

Coach Louis van Gaal bemoaned "It's not the first time this has happened: four or five times already this season we have given away a match we should have won and today it happened again."

Bayern Munich Kraft - Lahm, Van Buyten (Badstuber 70), Breno (Kroos 90), Pranjic - Luiz Gustavo, Schweinsteiger - Robben (Altintop 68), Müller, Ribéry - Gomez

Inter Milan     César - Maicon, Lucio, Ranocchia, Chivu (Nagatomo 87) - Thiago Motta - Cambiasso, Stankovic (Coutinho 51) - Sneijder - Pandev (Kharja 90), Eto'o

Referee: Pedro Proenca (Portugal)

Crowd: 66,000 (capacity)

Goals: 0-1 Eto'o (4), 1-1 Gomez (21), 2-1 Müller (31), 2-2 Sneijder (63), 2-3 Pandev (88)


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