Liverpool FC became the fourth English club to make it through to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after Fernando Torres struck in the second half to condemn ten-man FC Internazionale Milano to another failed European campaign.
The Spanish international's 26th goal of the season, and his fourth in this competition, gave the Reds a three-goal aggregate lead which was to prove insurmountable for the Italian champions, who, as in the first leg at Anfield, were reduced to ten men after Nicolás Burdisso was dismissed. The Nerazzurri are eliminated at the first knockout round stage for the second successive year, while Liverpool can continue to dream of a third final appearance in four attempts.
'Pride of Milan'
It was always going to be a herculean task for Inter, who took to the field to a rapturous welcome from the Curva Nord, displaying a huge banner that read: FC Inter Orgoglio di Milan. And the 'pride of Milan' immediately set about trying to reduce the two-goal aggregate deficit. After four minutes Esteban Cambiasso started and finished a move that required a block from right-back Jamie Carragher, making his 100th European appearance. Then, on eight minutes, Pepe Reina was at full stretch to deny Julio Cruz after the striker had cut in from the left and unleashed a powerful shot.
Reinforced by the defensive midfield duo of Javier Mascherano and Lucas Leiva, Liverpool began to look more assured after the first 20 minutes and almost went ahead when Cambiasso slipped in the corner of his area, conceding possession to Torres. The in-form forward skipped past both the Argentinian and Rivas Lopez yet goalkeeper Júlio César narrowed the angle and saved the shot with his legs. At the other end, Inter should have scored when a delightful give-and-go between Zlatan Ibrahimović and Cruz broke the offside trap, but the latter's diagonal drive rolled just wide.
Ibrahimović cut a menacing figure whenever he came deep to receive the ball although the impressive Lucas coped manfully, continually snapping at the Swede's heels to stop the danger at source. Rafael Benítez's game plan largely entailed long passes over the top to exploit the pace of Ryan Babel and Torres, and the visitors almost fell behind when Maicon found Cruz, whose trademark back-heel brought the best out of Pepe Reina.
The turning point came when Burdisso was sent off for his second booking on 50 minutes. Again Roberto Mancini's team were a defender down, though initially at least, the setback appeared only to strengthen their resolve. Crucially, Ibrahimović failed to capitalise on an error in the box from Martin Škrtel, firing wide. The hosts were soon made to pay as Torres brought down a ball from midfield with his back to goal, turned on the edge of the area and swept an unstoppable low strike past César. Inter did create further chances yet their night was typified by Ibrahimović's last contribution – a shot blazed over when he was clear on goal with ten minutes remaining.