A Milan derby awaits in the Champions League semi-finals after Inter made it past Benfica with a 3-3 draw on Wednesday, sealing a 5-3 aggregate victory.
Following Milan’s passage to the final four after they eliminated Napoli on Tuesday, Inter just had to see out their quarter-final second leg against the Lisbon side having taken a 2-0 lead into the clash at San Siro.
As he did in the first leg, Nicolo Barella gave Inter the lead with an excellent finish, before Fredrik Aursnes equalised for the visitors with a powerful header before half-time.
Lautaro Martinez put Inter back in front, before substitute Joaquin Correa added another with a fine effort, though late goals from Antonio Silva and Petar Musa meant Roger Schmidt’s men at least ended their recent losing run.
3 – Nicolò #Barella is the 3rd #Inter player to score in both legs of a #ChampionsLeague knockout fixture, after Christian Vieri in 2002-03 (quarter-final v Valencia CF) and Dejan Stankovic in 2005-06 (round of 16 v Ajax). Soul#InterBenfica
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) April 19, 2023
Barella put the hosts in front in the 14th minute when the determined midfielder battled his way into the Benfica box after a one-two with Martinez, before cutting onto his left foot and finishing splendidly into the top left corner.
Martinez had a goal ruled out in the 33rd minute after his header at the far post squirmed under Odisseas Vlachodimos, with the Benfica goalkeeper relieved to see a foul given against the Argentine for a push on Gilberto.
From nowhere though, Benfica were level in the game after Rafa Silva’s perfect cross from the right allowed Aursnes to send a bullet header past Andre Onana seven minutes before the break.
Inter effectively ended their opponent’s hopes when they scored a second in the 65th minute. Federico Dimarco played a one-two on the left with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, before crossing for Martinez to finish into the roof of the net
Correa scored a third for Inter just two minutes after coming off the bench as he cut inside from the left and bent an effort in off the far post.
Antonio Silva headed in for the visitors from an inswinging Alex Grimaldo free-kick before Musa swept in a loose ball to equalise, but the Nerazzurri confirmed they will face their city rivals in the semi-finals.
What does it mean? Inter put domestic form behind them
It has been a tricky spell for Inter in Serie A, having not won any of their last five games and drawing one.
Benfica came into this off the back of three defeats of their own, and it will be a small consolation that they were able to end that run at San Siro.
Inter had never lost a two-legged European Cup/Champions League tie in which they had taken a lead of two or more goals into the second leg, with this their ninth time doing so, and they never looked like ending that record here despite the Benfica’s late comeback.
Dimarco shines for Inter
It was a productive night for Dimarco, who produced 10 crosses from the left, more than twice as many as any other player, and recorded two assists.
He also made three key passes, more than any other Inter player, and had the joint-most interceptions along with Francesco Acerbi (both three).
Benfica look Ben-weaker
When they reached the last eight last season, Benfica – led by Darwin Nunez – went into the second leg two goals down, but gave the club Nunez would later move to, Liverpool, a bit of a fright at Anfield, earning a 3-3 draw.
They managed to repeat that feat at San Siro, but despite the late goals, they were in reality well beaten by Inter over the two legs.
Goncalo Ramos was unable to impact the game in any way, having just 25 touches, completing 11 passes (from 14 attempts) and taking one shot, which was off target.
Key Opta facts
– Inter have reached their ninth European Cup/Champions League semi-final, and first since 2009-10.
– Benfica have never progressed from the Champions League quarter-finals, with this their sixth elimination at this stage. Indeed, across 12 matches in those six ties, the Portuguese club have never won one (D5 L7).
– Barella is only the third Inter player to score in both legs of a two-legged Champions League knockout tie, after Christian Vieri (2002-03 quarter-final v Valencia) and Dejan Stankovic (2005-06 last 16 v Ajax).
– Martínez both scored and assisted in the same Champions League match for a second time this season, becoming the first player to do so for Inter since Samuel Eto’o in 2010-11 (three times).
– Dimarco was the first player to assist two goals in a single knockout stage match in the Champions League for Inter since Eto’o v Bayern Munich in the 2010-11 last 16.
– Antonio Silva became only the fifth outfield player to start 10 matches in a Champions League season as a teenager, after Clarence Seedorf (1994-95), Tomas Rosicky (1999-00), Cesc Fabregas (2005-06) and Matthijs de Ligt (2018-19).
Inter travel to Empoli on Sunday while Benfica host Estoril the same day.
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