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FC Internazionale Milano's tactics were not to blame for their last-gasp 1-0 UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg defeat at Olympique de Marseille, said playmaker Wesley Sneijder of a result that "hurts".
Nerazzurri coach Claudio Ranieri plumped for a cautious 4-2-3-1 formation in France and it seemed they would be going back to Milan on 13 March level until André Ayew headed in an added-time corner. Sneijder, playing in the centre of the three behind lone striker Diego Forlán, approved of the experiment despite the final outcome.
"That was the first time tonight and I think that if you look at the first half, generally speaking, we were positioned well, and that was the most important thing – not to concede a goal here and to score one ourselves," the Dutch international said. "
I think we played with power and with heart, and that is the only positive thing I can say, because if you concede a goal in the final seconds then that hurts, yes."
Sneijder's team-mates were frustrated at conceding so late, having kept Marseille at bay for the majority of the contest. Indeed, goalkeeper Júlio César had enjoyed a relatively quiet evening going into added time when he was forced to push an Ayew shot around his post. To his disappointment, however, he was beaten by the Ghanaian's header from the resulting corner.
This defeat really hurts because I think Inter played well and a draw would have been a fairer result," the Brazilian international said. "They won the first 90 and now we'll go for it in Milan."
Inter have lost six of their last seven matches in all competitions and Júlio César admits the dip is difficult to comprehend. "This is the first time I've found myself in a situation as tough as this," he said. "We need to show a lot of character and a lot of strength to come through it. You get moments like this in life and you need to maintain confidence in your own ability to get going again, without forgetting all the good things that have been done. We must stick together and come out of this through hard work."
Forlán, who led the line well on his first UEFA Champions League outing for the 2010 winners, yet failed to convert their clearest chance on 11 minutes, also believes they can turn the corner. "Unfortunately ups and downs are normal in football but we have to work hard and try to do what we can because we have enough quality to start winning again," he said. "We haven't scored here but we will have another chance in front of our fans."
Midfielder Esteban Cambiasso, meanwhile, took encouragement from the display, saying: "The team produced a reaction. We are disappointed to have lost, of course, but we would be talking very differently if we had not conceded from the corner late on. We never felt we were favourites for this tie but after this performance I am really convinced we can reach the quarter-finals."
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