By Matthew Spiro at Giuseppe Meazza
AC Milan booked their place in the last four of the UEFA Champions League in unsatisfactory circumstances after the second leg of their quarter-final with FC Internazionale Milano was abandoned due to crowd trouble.
Plastic bottles, flares and an umbrella were among objects thrown from the crowd behind Milan goalkeeper Dida, who was struck on the shoulder by one firework 72 minutes into the match. German referee Markus Merk made a swift decision to take both sets of players off the Giuseppe Meazza pitch and into the dressing rooms.
Milan, who won the first leg 2-0 last week, had taken a 30th-minute lead through Andriy Shevchenko to lead 3-0 on aggregate but shortly after Nerazzurri midfield player Esteban Cambiasso had a goal disallowed, play was suspended. After a 20-minute break play was resumed, but Merk abandoned the game moments later when more objects landed on the field.
A decision by the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Board will determine whether or not tonight's result stands but there seems little doubt that Inter's European campaign is over - and in bitterly disappointing circumstances.
It was Milan, despite the absence of suspended midfield player Gennaro Gattuso, who enjoyed the game's first chance. After early yellow cards to Gattuso's replacement Massimo Ambrosini, as well as Inter pair Kily González and Marco Materazzi, Andrea Pirlo curled a free-kick narrowly wide of the right-hand post.
Inter produced their first effort on goal moments later as Juan Sebastián Verón, the home side's most dangerous attacking player in the early stages, struck a powerful drive from 25 metres that forced Dida into a smart save.
With the fit-again Adriano marshalled by Jaap Stam, Inter failed to get the early goal they wanted and their task became even more daunting on 30 minutes when Milan opened the scoring. Shevchenko picked up possession on the right side of the penalty area and unleashed a superb left-footed shot that swung inside Francesco Toldo's right-hand post. It was the Ukrainian's 13th career strike against Inter and left the Nerazzurri needing an improbable four goals to go through.
Unfazed, Inter were quickly on the attack and Dida - hoping for a Champions League record sixth consecutive clean sheet - did well to tip Kily's long-range effort around the post on 33 minutes, before Adriano was off target with his first shot of the night. Milan stood firm at the back, however, and could even have doubled their lead before the break as Cafu headed Shevchenko's hanging cross wide when well placed.
Mancini made two changes at half-time, with Sinisa Mihajlovic and Julio Cruz replacing Cristiano Zanetti and Kily as the home side reverted to a 4-4-2 formation. He was forced to make a third substitution seven minutes later when Adriano sustained an injury and made way for Obafemi Martins.
The Nigerian striker made an instant impression, bursting past Stam with his first touch before seeing a low shot stopped by Dida. Milan's Dutch defender appeared uncomfortable against the pace of Martins and his slip offered the substitute another glimpse of goal on the hour, but this time his shot was easily saved.
Inter midfield player Cambiasso thought he had restored parity on the night when his header squeezed in at the far post but referee Merk disallowed the effort for a push and promptly booked the Argentinian for dissent. Moments later the evening's unsavoury events began to unfold and the match was brought to a premature close.