Milan AC 2-0 Hapoel Tel-Aviv - Rui Costa's strike and an own goal saw off Tel-Aviv in Milan.
Milan AC 2-0 Hapoel Tel-Aviv (Milan win 2-1 on aggregate)
Rui Costa's strike and an own goal by Shimon Gershon ended Hapoel Tel-Aviv's UEFA Cup adventure in the San Siro and sent Milan AC through to the semi-final stage with a 2-1 aggregate victory.
Tel-Aviv had defeated Chelsea FC and Parma AC en route to their quarter-final encounter, and after shocking Milan 1-0 in a first leg played in Cyprus due to security fears in Israel, Dror Kashtan's side had real hopes of making the last four.
String of chances
But just five minutes into the game on Italian soil, Rui Costa's 18-metre free-kick settled Milan's nerves and Gershon's unfortunate headed own goal seconds before half-time doubled their lead. Despite a string of second-half chances, Tel-Aviv could not find the goal they needed so bowed out of the competition.
Rui Costa's goal came after a foul on Filippo Inzaghi and the Portuguese international left Shavit Elimelech with no chance. Both sides then spurned several chances with the best opportunities falling the way of the Italian club. Inzaghi, on his return to the Milan lineup after injury, was particularly unlucky on a number of occasions.
Soon after Marco Simone had a shot cleared off the line, Milan doubled their lead. It came when Rui Costa sent in a teasing cross that Gershon inadvertently headed into his own net under pressure from the eager Inzaghi. But the Israeli club were not finished, especially as a solitary goal would still have sent them through on away goals.
Abbiati on top
Christian Abbiati was in good form for the hosts and made several key saves, notably from Asaf Domb's 64th-minute header and Istvan Pisont's right-foot drive with three minutes remaining. The latter effort was to prove the last significant chance, leaving Milan to hold on for a well-deserved aggregate victory.
Rui Costa happy
Upon reaching the last four, Rui Costa was understandably delighted. "I hope that from now on we will always be able to leave the pitch giving this feeling and such satisfaction to our fans," he said. "During the training sessions we always work hard to be able to play matches like this one."
Tel-Aviv coach Kashtan was proud of his side, despite their defeat. "No one likes to lose, but, as a coach who just lost to Milan I can say that I'm totally satisfied with our performance," he said. "I'm so proud to be among an unbelieveable set of players who showed the rest of Europe what Israeli football is capable of doing."