Inter through despite Greek shock
Inter Milan scraped through to the UEFA Champions League knock-out stages despite a shock 1-0 home defeat to Panathinaikos at San Siro on Wednesday. Josu Sarriegi scored the winner for the Greeks on 69 minutes to give them a Champions League lifeline.
Panathinaikos only need a point at home to Anorthosis Famagusta in two weeks' time to join Inter in the second round, although the Italians now need a result, possibly even a victory, away to Werder Bremen, or they risk failing to top Group B.
To call the first half lacklustre would have been to give both teams an undeserved compliment. Inter lacked urgency and pace in their play, while Panathinaikos were short of ambition and their sole forward Vangelis Mantzios cut a lonely and isolated figure up front. The visitors had marginally the better of the first 25 minutes, with three Brazilians testing their sights. Gabriel had a shot charged down, Simao headed over the bar and former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva screwed an effort wide.
The game was 31 minutes old when finally Inter created a noteworthy opportunity as Esteban Cambiasso chipped the ball over the top for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who put a little too much on his lob over goalkeeper Mario Galinovic and the ball landed on the top of the net.
Inter now started to create some half chances without ever looking like scoring as Sulley Muntari, Ibrahimovic, Luis Figo and Adriano all fired well off target. Inter coach Jose Mourinho wasted little time in reacting, hauling off Muntari at the break and replacing him with winger Ricardo Quaresma.
There was an added urgency about the hosts following the restart, but Panathinaikos still threatened first with Simao rasping a shot just past the angle of post and crossbar. Then, on 55 minutes, Cambiasso had a header cleared off line after Galinovic spilled a corner. Soon after, Adriano got on the end of a Figo cross but could not get any power behind his header.
But on 69 minutes, the Greeks stunned Inter as Giannis Goumas met a Gabriel corner with a powerful header that Julio Cesar could only parry, allowing Sarriegi to smash home the loose ball. That triggered some serious urgency in the Inter camp, and Mourinho threw on forwards Mario Balotelli and Julio Cruz while Adriano came within inches of heading home a dangerous cross from Quaresma.
With eight minutes left another Quaresma cross aimed at Adriano was narrowly deflected over the bar as Inter piled on the pressure. Adriano then flicked on a long ball to Cruz, who sliced his volley well wide from a good position.
Cruz twice went close again in injury time but Galinovic tipped his close range header over the bar before the Argentine volleyed another effort over from seven yards out.