A frantic finale at the San Siro stadium saw Internazionale FC hold on for a 3-2 win against Bayer 04 Leverkusen in UEFA Champions League Group A.
With the game seemingly over at 3-1 moving into added time, França headed a goal to give Leverkusen a glimmer of hope, before Alvaro Recoba and Sergio Cõnceiçao missed clear chances to make the game safe for Inter. At the other end, in virtually the last action of the game, Bernd Schneider claimed an equaliser for Leverkusen as he beat Inter goalkeeper Francesco Toldo to a far-post cross, only for the goal to be ruled out and the Leverkusen player booked for handball.
Both coaches had selection dilemmas before kick-off, with Leverkusen still without long-term casualty Jens Nowotny, and Brazilian defender Lucio, who has a foot injury. Meanwhile, Inter's first-choice central defence of Fabio Cannavaro and Marco Materazzi were both missing, through suspension and injury respectively.
It was Leverkusen who settled quicker and they were unfortunate not to be ahead inside two minutes. Oliver Neuville's corner was met by Dimitar Berbatov, whose header beat both Toldo and Emre Belözoglu on the line, only to hit the post.
The away team continued to see more of the ball, although they struggled to create clear chances. Nevertheless, when Inter took the lead in the 15th minute, it was against the run of play, as Luigi Di Biagio stole ahead of Carsten Ramelow at the near post to meet Alvaro Recoba's corner and head into the net.
Di Biagio on target again
The goal was hard on Leverkusen, but they seemed undeterred by the setback and continued to push forward. However, the Italian side doubled their advantage in the 27th minute, as Recoba and Di Biagio combined again. Captain Javier Zanetti came forward down the Inter right and found Recoba inside the Leverkusen penalty area, whose low cross was thumped into the net off the crossbar by Di Biagio for his second of the night.
Chances for Crespo
It should have been 3-0 before half-time, with Di Biagio heavily involved again. His left-wing cross presented Hernán Crespo with what should have been a simple chance, only for the Argentinian striker to head over. He missed another clear chance after 74 minutes, sliding in to meet Emre's cross but this time Crespo struck a post.
The game continued in similar fashion after the interval, as the opening minutes of the second period saw chances at both ends, with young Inter left-back Giovanni Pasquale slicing through the Leverkusen defence only to hit a shot high over the crossbar.
Leverkusen did finally get back into the game in the 63rd minute, as Boris Zivkovic met Neuville's left-wing corner on the half-volley at the near post to give his team hope. However, a slip by goalkeeper Hans-Jörg Butt nine minutes from time, as he fumbled Nicola Beati's low cross into the net under pressure from Crespo, seemed to have ended Leverkusen's challenge, only for França's header to ensure late drama.