Having recorded a 2-0 win on the road last week, Simone Inzaghi’s Inter Milan welcomed Benfica to the San Siro on Wednesday night. Stefan De Vrij was deemed not fit enough to start, though the Portuguese side also had defensive woes due to the loss of Alexander Bah.
INT: Onana; Bastoni, Acerbi, Darmian; Dimarco, Mkhitaryan, Brozovic, Barella, Dumfries; Dzeko, Martinez
SLB: Vlachodimos; Grimaldo, Otamendi, A. Silva, Gilberto; Chiquinho, Florentino; Aursnes, R. Silva, J. Mario; Ramos
Inter looked to add to their lead early on as Lautaro Martinez skipped through towards goal, but the Argentine placed too much power on his attempted pass to Federico Dimarco – bringing an end to the chance, and relief for Benfica.
Inzaghi’s side took the lead in just under fifteen minutes, as Nicolo Barella sent a beautiful curling shot towards the top-left corner that left Vlachodimos with no chance of making the save. Lautaro Martinez registered the assist as he found the Italian midfielder to his right, but this was a goal of Barella’s making as he dummied a shot on his right foot before cutting inside and dispatching a thunderous left-footed effort!
The hosts nearly found themselves two goals up just a few minutes later, as Vlachodimos made a mess of what should have been a fairly easy save. Edin Dzeko could smell blood and looked to capitalise on the goalkeeper’s mistake, but Nicolas Otamendi and Antonio Silva were on hand to pick up the pieces.
With twenty-five minutes played, Dimarco swung in a promising corner towards Bastoni – though the defender mistimed his header, and the ball trickled away from danger. Inter had certainly been the better side throughout the opening exchanges, and looked set to progress.
San Siro’s famous atmosphere erupted once more as Lautaro Martinez nodded the ball into the back of the net following Edin Dzeko’s cross into the area. The celebrations didn’t last long at all though, as the Argentine had clearly shoved Gilberto before diverting his header past Vlachodimos – so the goal was disallowed.
Against the run of play, Fredrik Aursnes managed to bring Benfica level with a headed effort of his own. The Norwegian rose highest to thump an effort past Onana into the top-left, but Denzel Dumfries should have done better to keep hold of the winger!
The sides headed into half-time level on the night, though Inter knew that they still held a two-goal advantage over their Portuguese rivals. Desperate to extend their lead, Lautaro Martinez started the second half by firing a speculative shot from thirty yards out or so – and it came close to finding the back of the net in spectacular style, though it ultimately ended up just wide of the top corner.
Benfica were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the 53rd minute after Martinez’s rash sliding challenge on Aursnes inside the area, as the Norwegian looked ready to shoot. The referee’s initial decision was to let play continue – and that was backed up by VAR, but Roger Schmidt’s side were understandably incensed.
Just over ten minutes later, Martinez scored to send Internazionale 4-1 up on aggregate! After a tidy passage of play on the left flank, Dimarco’s cross into the area was perfectly placed for the Argentinian to fire home into the roof of the net from close range – and it looked as if the hosts had complete control of this tie!
Joaquin Correa bagged Inter’s third with just over ten minutes left to play, as he found a way past Otamendi before curling an emphatic effort towards the far post! The Argentine had only been introduced three minutes prior, but it’s fair to say he made his mark on the game, and Inter led 5-1 on aggregate.
Benfica looked to grab a consolation goal in the 84th minute, as David Neres managed to see off Onana before firing an effort towards the bottom-right corner – but the Brazilian’s strike richocheted off the woodwork.
The Portuguese side did manage to claw one back two minutes later, as Antonio Silva rose highest inside the box to divert Grimaldo’s free-kick into the back of the net. It was a well-worked goal, but it felt as if Benfica had left it far too late – as this still meant they were 5-2 down over both legs.
Spectacularly, they managed to bag a third goal in the 95th minute to bring themselves level on the night as Petar Musa finished off a well-executed short corner routine. It had been a spirited final few minutes for the visitors, but there was simply no time left to try and overturn the result of the first leg – and Inter Milan progress to the semifinals. They’ll face city rivals AC Milan, ahead of a potential final against Real Madrid or Manchester City.