Internazionale FC 1-1 Valencia CF
Ten-man Valencia CF got the better of their reunion with former coach Héctor Cúper as the Spanish league leaders held Internazionale FC to a 1-1 draw in the San Siro in this UEFA Cup quarter-final first-leg tie.
Francisco Rufete's equaliser for Valencia on 65 minutes cancelled out Marco Materazzi's goal for Inter after Kily González was sent off for an off-the-ball incident with Mohamed Kallon in between the two goals. Last May the San Siro had been the venue for Valencia’s second successive UEFA Champions League final defeat - just before Cúper left the Spanish side to join Inter. And Valencia's return to the imposing façade once again left a bittersweet taste in the Argentinian's mouth. But at least this time Valencia travelled home to Spain with a sense of accomplishment rather than disappointment having grabbed that all-important away goal.
Inspired substitution Cúper unhappy with defence
Having had the better of the first half, Valencia fell behind to Materazzi’s goal soon after the restart and were also reduced to ten-men when Kily González was dismissed. This should have been the cue for Inter to take charge of the game. Instead Valencia drew level. The creator was Angulo, who had only just been thrown on as John Carew's replacement by coach Rafael Benítez. Angulo shrugged off Ivan Cordoba’s challenge and then split the centre of the Inter defence with a precise pass. Franciso Rufete, who had had a fine game throughout on the right of midfield, collected the ball, before drilling his shot under Alberto Fontana’s body. Valencia could even have snatched the win but Fontana did wonderfully to palm away Roberto Ayala’s well-directed header and Angulo was unable to force the ball into the net.
Cúper was not best pleased with his defence. "I'm angry at the lack of concentration," said the Inter coach, who denied that by resting key striker Christian Vieri he was taking the UEFA Cup lightly. "We are professionals and so we have the responbility to play seriously always." Benítez agreed with his coaching counterpart that Inter had taken the game more than seriously, adding that he feared the impact Ronaldo might have should the Brazilian make next Thursday's return.
Inter into the lead
Inter’s goal had stemmed from Santiago Cañizares’s instinctive one-handed save that had steered Kallon’s low shot away for a corner. Cordoba headed back towards the goal the resulting corner and Materazzi glanced the ball home.
Toil and trouble
Valencia had had much the better of the opening period with Ayala and Pellegrino dominating Nicola Ventola and Kallon as Cúper rested Christian Vieri. That defensive mastery was only ever really tested when Cúper introduced Alvaro Recoba and Stéphane Dalmat late in the second-half. Just as Kallon and Ventola toiled so to did the Inter midfield for long periods, unable to gain ascendancy over Albelda.
The fly in the ointment for Valencia was their attack until Angulo's arrival. Carew proved a handful for Materazzi and worked diligently along the line without ever really threatening to break the deadlock. Valencia’s main attacking threat was provided by Juan Pablo Aimar, who dropped intelligently into the void between midfield and attack. Three times Kily González's quick thinking threatened to send Aimar clear, most notably when the Argentinian had the time and space to unleash a shot which Fontana did well to block.