By Ivan Carvalho at the Giuseppe Meazza
Group G leaders FC Internazionale Milano secured a place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages with a draw against Valencia CF despite being reduced to ten men.
As tempers flared at the end of an engaging yet goalless encounter, Adriano, the striker whose goals have helped Roberto Mancini's side remain unbeaten in Serie A, was dismissed for his part in an off-the-ball scuffle with Marco Caneira.
Mancini had opted for an attack-minded formation, starting Adriano up front with Obafemi Martins, despite having Christian Vieri available again. Spanish champions Valencia, missing the influential Pablo Aimar and Vicente Rodríguez through injury, looked to recover from their 5-1 Matchday 3 defeat at the hands of Inter by using Italian Marco Di Vaio as an advanced striker, supported by Mista.
The first half, however, seemed like a repeat of two weeks ago as Inter continually drove forward to keep Valencia goalkeeper Santiago Cañizares busy. In the eighth minute, Adriano found space just outside the penalty area and unleashed a powerful left-footed drive that Cañizares did well to block after it took a slight deflection.
Argentinian midfield player Juan Sebastián Verón then tried his luck with a free-kick that he lashed towards the bottom-right corner only to see the 34-year-old Spanish keeper make another stop. Valencia finally responded thanks to an Inter miscue as Dutchman Edgar Davids sent an errant back-pass into the path of a charging Di Vaio but the Italian could not get his shot on target, sending his drive skidding wide to the right of the Inter goal.
Mancini's side continued to find space and when Esteban Cambiasso received a pass, he confidently chested it down and sent a left-footed shot narrowly off target. Brazilian right-back Zé Maria then fired in a cross on 28 minutes that Adriano headed down but wide of Valencia's goal.
The best scoring opportunity of the first half came 12 minutes before the break after a neat exchange between Verón and Martins which saw the Nigerian forward break free and fire a blistering drive towards the ever-alert Cañizares.
Reliant on Rufete
The Spanish side showed little initiative after the interval and relied on midfield player Francisco Rufete, playing out on the right, to provide the team's spark and the 27-year-old found Di Vaio with a low cross in the box. The former Juventus FC striker shrugged off Inter's Iván Cordoba to make contact but his header floated high over the crossbar.
That foray helped kick-start a lethargic Valencia and moments later Mista received a pass in space from Miguel Angulo but his shot floated wide. Amedeo Carboni then tried his luck by offering up a low cross but it was gobbled up by Inter keeper Alberto Fontana.
Martins threatened to carve open the visitors' defence with one surging run then, just after the hour, Adriano looked ready to open his account as he darted in past a defender and struck a low left-footed shot that Cañizares swatted away.
Davids then tried to make amends for his previous mistake by breaking to the by-line and finding Martins in front of goal but the Nigerian lifted his close-range effort on to the crossbar. Valencia coach Claudio Ranieri brought on Bernardo Corradi and Mohamed Sissoko as he went looking for a goal in vain but although a point keeps their alive their hopes of joining Inter in the last 16, they face an uphill battle.