Big night for Mourinho and Inter
Colourful Portuguese coach Jose Mourinho became the first man to guide three different clubs to the Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday as Italian champions Inter Milan defeated CSKA Moscow 1-0, 2-0 on aggregate.
An early goal by Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder - who had been an injury doubt on the eve of the match - set them on their way for their first appearance in the last four in seven years. Their task was made easier when Nigerian Chidi Odiah was sent-off early in the second-half for a second bookable offence.
Mourinho, who has previously taken Porto and then Chelsea to the last four with the former winning the trophy under him in 2004, could be joined as a coach to have taken three different sides to the last four by Dutchman Louis van Gaal if Bayern Munich beat Manchester United on Wednesday.
CSKA manager Leonid Slutsky admitted that Sneijder's early goal had taken the wind out of his side's sails. "We came into the match looking for a win. But the early goal, along with Vasily Berezutsky's injury made our task a great deal tougher," he said. "The exclusion of Chidi Odiah virtually dashed our hopes completely.
"But I can't hold anything against my men today. They did all thay could," he added. "I consider nevertheless that we looked good in both of our matches with Inter and deservedly had a place in the last eight."
Sneijder struck in the sixth minute with a freekick, which while finely struck would not have endangered the CSKA Moscow goal had Japanese international Keisuke Honda not jumped over the ball. CSKA Moscow goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev vainly stretched out his legs to try and stop it as he was diving the other way but to no avail, and was understandably furious with Honda.
CSKA, who missed their most creative player Milos Krasic as he was suspende, rarely threatened to get back on level terms during the first-half apart from a neat move which saw Tomas Necid go agonisingly close in the 23rd minute with Inter 'keeper Julio Cesar well beaten. CSKA also put together another dazzling passing move with 10 minutes remaining of the first period turning the Inter midfield and defence inside out only for Pavel Mamaev to lose control of his shot inside the area, the ball going sideways instead of at the Inter goal.
Hard job gets impossible
Inter, though, almost made them pay again as Diego Milito - scorer of the goal in the first leg - turned inside a CSKA defender and with just Akinfeev to beat saw the Russian international 'keeper save with his legs.
Any hope of CSKA mounting a miraculous comeback ended in the 50th minute as Odiah was redcarded by French referee Stephane Lannoy for a second bookable offence after the Nigerian - who had come on in the first-half for Vasili Berezutski - clattered into Samuel Eto'o. CSKA did trouble Julio Cesar as Chilean winger Mark Gonzalez - once of Liverpool and Real Betis - fired in a shot but the Brazilian guardian was equal to the task and caught it smartly.
Inter were strolling to victory, but they did draw good saves from Akinfeev through Sneijder and Dejan Stankovic, and the Russian stood tall when needed to deny Milito when he was one on one with him with 17 minutes remaining.