FC Internazionale are through to the fourth round of the UEFA Cup on the away-goals rule - but future progress in the competition is threatened by the red card shown to striker Christian Vieri late in the game against FC Sochaux Montbéliard.
It was a tough, physical affair at the San Siro and, on one occasion, referee Steve Bennett pulled the rival captains aside to stress the need for cool heads. When Vieri challenged Maxence Flachez with four minutes remaining the defender went down and the Italian international saw a straight red which rules him out for at least the next match.
Sochaux, who always feared that Inter's two away goals six days ago would prove decisive, would have preferred to have had more time against the ten men. After a difficult start in which they were constantly pegged back, the French team, who had accounted for BV Borussia Dortmund in the previous round, gradually became the dominant force.
Sochaux coach Guy Lacombe said they had lost the game in the first leg, "when we wasted too many chances". He added: "We were not lucky in this tie, especially when you think that in the first leg we had 27 shots and only scored twice; Inter shot only twice and scored two goals. However, we are growing and must continue on this path."
Toldo to the rescue
They struggled to create clear-cut chances but one came their way with 23 minutes remaining. Clever footwork from substitute Jaouad Zairi produced a cross which gave Santos a glorious opportunity. However, the striker could not make a convincing connection and Francesco Toldo was able to block the attempt.
Santos denied again
Eight minutes later Santos won back possession after a free-kick was initially cleared and held off a clutch of defenders to create room for the shot. His toe-poke brushed the head of Daniele Adani but Toldo responded well with the save.
Sochaux had played spiritedly in the first leg, twice coming back to equalise. For the return, Inter coach Alberto Zaccheroni made five changes and was looking for an improvement on the 3-1 defeat by Brescia Calcio last weekend.
Vieri comes close
Inter were lively at the start and in the eighth minute Vieri got in a fine attempt from a difficult angle that Gérard Gnanhouan tipped around the post. Then, following a corner, the goalkeeper produced a fine stretching save from Cristiano Zanetti.
'We deserved it'
Zaccheroni said: "We did not give them many chances to score even if we did not create much ourselves. But I think we deserved to go through because of our performance in the first leg."