Valencia CF endured a nerve-jangling but effective 0-0 draw with FC Internazionale Milano to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in four years.
Away goals from David Villa and David Silva in the 2-2 first-leg draw in Italy proved sufficient to eliminate the Serie A leaders. Both sides threatened to break the deadlock at the Mestalla but Inter's generally conservative approach and Valencia's determined organisation left the contest goalless.
The Spanish team began by playing much deeper than expected, mirroring Inter's initially conservative approach, and home forwards Villa and Fernando Morientes had to scavenge for possession. Miguel Ángel Angulo became frustrated with the lack of clear-cut openings and tried a speculative shot; when this ricocheted between Morientes and Marco Materazzi, the former had a perfect opportunity to stab the ball home, but the Italy defender denied him with a superb diving block.
Inter's response was to play to their strengths. The giant frame of Materazzi leapt above everyone to meet Dejan Stanković's corner, but Raúl Albiol's challenge put him off and the header flew high and wide. At the other end, Rubén Baraja's last meaningful contribution before limping off, to be replaced by Hugo Viana, was to shoot to Júlio César's bottom left-hand corner, forcing the Inter keeper to save at full stretch.
Gradually the fact the home side were missing their organiser and enforcer, in suspended captain David Albelda, began to have an effect. Inter's hard-working trio of Oliver Dacourt, Nicolás Burdisso and Stanković were taking over midfield. Accordingly, Valencia were pushed further back, separating their midfielders from the strikers. The pressure culminated in a fine right-wing cross from full-back Maicon which Zlatan Ibrahimović met at the back post; Hernán Crespo snapped at the loose ball and it bounced off Albiol who was stood in front of the goalline. The Inter forward called for a penalty but referee Wolfgang Stark was well-placed to decide it had hit the defender's thigh.
Before the break both Santiago Cañizares and Ibrahimović were booked for a bout of push and shove which involved several players, yet Stark again defused the tension. Sadly, it was a precursor of the violent scenes that would mark the end of the match. The second half was furious for footballing reasons and brought chances. Maicon delivered a centre to the back post which Stanković could only volley into the sidenetting. Moments later, Villa spotted his left-back in the penalty box but Emiliano Moretti guided the free header into César's hands. Then, with the clock ticking down, Inter coach Roberto Mancini decided to opt for creativity over industry with Luís Figo coming on for Dacourt. The former Real Madrid CF winger received a predictably warm reception.
Inter profited from a traditional tactic in the 75th minute as their best opportunity came from Materazzi outjumping everyone at a corner, beating Cañizares only to see Carlos Marchena control the ball on his stomach and the goalkeeper clutch possession gratefully. A massive roar greeted that save and would be matched for every tackle as the Mestalla urged their favourites, successfully, into the last eight.