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Internazionale FC 0-1 Feyenoord
Feyenoord rode their luck and relied on some inspired goalkeeping against Internazionale FC tonight to give themselves a major push towards the UEFA Cup final.
Own goal proves enough
That final will be played in their own Rotterdam home on 8 May, and the Dutch team would experience huge disappointment were they to miss out now having gained a crucial advantage in the semi-final first leg at the San Siro stadium through Ivan Cordoba's own goal. For their part Inter will feel that they cannot be so profligate a second time.
Inter pay a high price
The chances the Milan team passed up were amazing, no more so than when Nicola Ventola somehow scooped the ball over the bar in the 57th minute from a position almost adjacent to the goalline. Feyenoord had far fewer opportunities but made more of them and almost scored a second in the 74th minute when Pierre van Hooijdonk clipped the bar from a free-kick.
Selection posers for Milan
Héctor Cúper knows now that his team will have to do it the hard way if they are to provide him with a fourth European final in successive seasons. It will be intriguing to see if he starts the return game with Ronaldo, who was given the final 20 minutes here as a substitute, and the coach will also be hoping that Christian Vieri is fit to lead the Inter attack.
While the Italian team were clearly short of the required quality in front of goal, credit must also go to goalkeeper Edwin Zoetebier who came to Feyenoord's rescue time and time again in the first half and made four significant saves with his legs.
Van Hooijdonk first to miss
The many examples of poor finishing began as early as the fourth minute - and by a Feyenoord player. Van Hooijdonk was the guilty party as he managed to lift the ball above a gaping net after the ball had been headed back following a Robin van Persie free-kick and with Alberto Fontana stranded by his near post.
Kallon in the same vein
The failing quickly spread and at the other end Inter found cause for regret. A combination of Zoetebier and a defender cleared Guly's inital cross but when Emre Belözoglu drove the ball back across a second time Mohamed Kallon was gifted a glorious opening. Over went the ball again.
Kallon out of luck
Inter gradually took control and Zoetebier made the first of his leg-assisted stops when the luckless Kallon got away. Careless defending gave Ventola a run at goal but his effort met the same fate. Cúper could have no complaint about the way his team were pressing their opponents, quick into every tackle and alert to every loose ball. An example of that hunger earned Kallon another shooting chance and those Zoetebier legs came to the rescue once more.
Cheers for Ronaldo
After Sérgio Conceição had screwed wide a shot that Emre laid on for him it was no surprise to see Ronaldo warming up as the second half got under way. When he emerged on to the field in the 70th minute the home supporters greeted him with acclaim.
However, by that time Inter were trailing following a calamitious own goal from Colombian defender Cordoba in the 50th minute when, under minimal pressure, he turned Van Hooijdonk's low cross into his own net. Before that had come the Ventola miss, followed switftly by a splendid Zoetebier tip-over from Ventola's header.
Despair to the end
Inter tired visibly in the latter stages and Ronaldo was heavily marked when he tried to make an impression. In injury time came their final opportunity and yet more despair as the goalkeper dashed out of his area to block Ventola's charge. Ronaldo tried to place the follow-up beyond the final defender but his attempt lacked sufficient power.
Cúper still confident
Despite the result, Cúper will tell his team they have every chance of turning the tie around. He said: "When the ball doesn't want to go into the net it is difficult. But I think we can get a good result in Holland. I am confident about that."
He said Ronaldo was still not ready to play 90 minutes and admitted that it was far from ideal for him to come into a game like this. However, he was pleased with the Brazilian, saying: "He did some interesting things."
Feyenoord coach Bert van Marwijk said it was a good result for his team. "In the second half we showed more confidence which was important playing in a stadium like this and against a team like Inter," he said.
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