FC Internazionale Milano reached the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League despite losing at home to Panathinaikos FC to José Sarriegi's second-half strike.
The Greek visitors, who survived a frantic spell of late Inter pressure unscathed, also lived to fight another day having moved into second place in Group B, after Sarriegi turned in from close range following a corner. The win put Panathinaikos a point behind the Italian champions and was accompanied by a 2-2 draw between Anorthosis Famagusta FC and Werder Bremen. Panathinaikos must now avoid defeat at home to Anorthosis in a fortnight to join Inter in the first knockout round.
Inter found it hard work to get going, not least because Panathinaikos were happy to defend in numbers. The hosts' first attack broke down when Zlatan Ibrahimović raced on to a searching pass and looked up to see seven white shirts crowding out Adriano in Mario Galinović's area. Although set up in a cautious 5-1-3-1 formation Panathinaikos did threaten on the break, particularly from set-pieces. Gabriel's shot required a block from Marco Materazzi following the Greens' first corner and, from their second, Simão headed over having pounced on another failed clearance. Panathinaikos slowly began passing the ball around to effect and Gilberto shot disappointingly wide after combining well with the lively Gabriel.
With the 5,000 travelling supporters outsinging the home fans, Ibrahimović was also enduring a quiet evening, even if he almost put his side ahead on the half-hour when he reached Esteban Cambiasso's clipped pass ahead of the advancing goalkeeper. Unfortunately for the Nerazzurri faithful behind the Curva Nord, his lob at full stretch landed on the roof of the net. Frustrated at their lack of incision, the Nerazzurri resorted to shooting from range but Sulley Muntari, Ibrahimović and Luís Figo missed the target and Adriano's angled attempt from the left found the side-netting.
At the break José Mourinho introduced Ricardo Quaresma in an attempt to inject some width and guile into his team's play, but it was his compatriot Figo, a surprise inclusion after two months out with a foot injury, who looked most like providing the midfield craft. For all their possession, Inter could find no way though and were made to pay for their profligacy on 69 minutes when they went behind to another set-play. Giannis Goumas met Gabriel's corner with a powerful header which came back off the foot of the post, and Sarriegi was on hand to slot in from close range. Suddenly the onus was on Inter to push on even though, with Anorthosis winning, the Serie A leaders still stood to go through.
The hosts began to pour forward, throwing numerous crosses into the penalty area which neither Ibrahimović or substitute Julio Cruz could convert at full stretch. With five minutes left the away supporters erupted in delight as it was relayed that Bremen had made it 2-2 in Cyprus, a result that spared Henk Ten Cate's side from elimination and let Inter off the hook. Panathinaikos still had to endure a nervy finale as Julio Cruz's header was saved by Galinović and a last-gasp volley from the same player flew over, yet held on for a crucial three points.
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