Dirk Kuyt's deflected shot and Steven Gerrard's raking low drive in the last five minutes put Liverpool FC in command of their UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie with FC Internazionale Milano, who battled bravely for an hour with ten men only to fall at the last.
Inter centre-back Marco Materazzi was shown a second yellow card after only 30 minutes but Liverpool, who dominated proceedings for long spells, could not make their numerical advantage count until the 85th minute when Jermaine Pennant's deep right-wing cross was allowed to bounce through to Kuyt at the far post for a shot that flew past Júlio César with the aid of a considerable deflection off Maicon. Liverpool took a firm grip on the tie in the 90th minute, Gerrard beating the Inter goalkeeper with a low shot from the corner of the area that evaded everyone and went in off a post to reward the home side for their persistence.
Liverpool started the stronger and Fábio Aurélio had the first strike on goal in the fifth minute with a curling free-kick from the edge of the box, the full-back's effort flying just over the crossbar. Júlio César then touched over a Sami Hyypiä header before Materazzi was booked for a foul on Fernando Torres and, after tugging on the shirt of the same player, was dismissed on the half-hour – a defining moment. Down to ten men, the Serie A leaders were always likely to be up against it and Liverpool held sway throughout the first half, midfielder Javier Mascherano especially effective at keeping Inter pinned back.
For all their attacking intentions, the five-time European champions struggled to create genuine opportunities as Inter regrouped and expertly reshuffled their defensive lines. Ryan Babel cut inside from the left and blazed one shot high and wide, before Gerrard was unlucky not to find a red shirt with a dangerous low cross, but Liverpool could not make any significant inroads as the opening period came to a close.
A moment of confusion early in the second half almost presented Inter with the lead as Hyypiä's rash attempted clearance eventually fell to Zlatan Ibrahimović, who set up Esteban Cambiasso for an instant shot that flew well wide. Inter coach Roberto Mancini introduced Patrick Vieira, yet the substitute's first contribution almost cost his team a goal – he was dispossessed by Lucas Leiva and the ball broke for Torres to race clear, only for Júlio César to touch behind his low strike. Hyypiä then grazed the top of the net with a header and Torres fired narrowly wide as Liverpool turned up the heat on a bitterly cold night on Merseyside.
Rafael Benítez introduced Peter Crouch and Pennant in the hope of breaking down Inter's rearguard and defender Iván Córdoba was carried off with a seemingly serious leg injury with 15 minutes remaining, yet still the visitors looked like holding out. The breakthrough finally came as the clock ticked down and Kuyt put Liverpool in front before Gerrard earned a potentially vital two-goal advantage to defend at San Siro on 11 March.