Internazionale will take a slender one-goal advantage into the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash with CSKA Moscow next week after Diego Milito earned them a 1-0 win at Milan's San Siro last night.
Jose Mourinho's side took over an hour to get warmed up, but they were then guilty of wasting a hatful of chances to settle this tie after Milito's solitary strike in the 65th minute. Nevertheless, the Nerazzurri will still fancy their chances of finishing off the job in the Russian capital next week after keeping a clean sheet at home.
Mourinho had warned on the eve of the game that it was not likely to be much of a spectacle and he was proven right for the first 45 minutes.
Internazionale struggled to find a way through a well-organised block of CSKA Moscow players, who waited patiently for their chance to break with the lively Pavel Mamaev and Milos Krasic looking dangerous on the ball.
A mazy run from Mamaev, who beat both Dejan Stankovic and Walter Samuel, was ended by Marco Materazzi, who had been preferred to Ivan Cordoba in the Internazionale defence as the replacement for the suspended Lucio. The Serie A leaders then started to create a few chances with Wesley Sneijder's shot from a free-kick punched clear by Igor Akinfeev as far as Stankovic, who shot wide from 20 yards.
Sergei Ignaschevich's direct free-kick at the other end was easy for Julio Cesar before Goran Pandev came the closest to opening the deadlock in the first half with a 25-yard shot that missed the crossbar by a matter of inches. Samuel Eto'o then had a few half-chances for the Nerazzurri, but Akinfeev's goal was rarely under any real threat.
CSKA made a bright start to the second half with Mamaev shooting just over the crossbar from 25 yards and then Aleksei Berezutski's dangerous low cross was put behind for a corner by Materazzi. Then, in the 55th minute, Evgeni Aldonin's 20-yard shot swirled in the air, forcing Julio Cesar to tip it over the crossbar.
That effort seemed to spark Internazionale back into life and they should have gone ahead on the hour mark when Esteban Cambiasso threaded the ball through to Stankovic, but the Serbian never really gained full control of it and could only strike a weak shot straight into Akinfeev's arms.
Four minutes later, Pandev exchanged passes with Sneijder before placing his left-footed shot towards the far corner where it was pushed away by Akinfeev.
Eto'o's shot in the 65th minute was saved on the line by the CSKA goalkeeper, but the Russian number one was unable to get to Milito's effort in the same minute as the Argentinian put the home side ahead with a low shot from just outside the penalty area.
Internazionale searched for a second with Pandev coming within inches of finding it in the 72nd minute. He did all of the hard work, dribbling the ball past Akinfeev after being sent through by Milito, but Vasili Berezutski came in around the back to clear his shot off the goal-line with a desperate lunge. Sneijder chose the wrong option as he shot into the side-netting in the 84th minute before Cambiasso's shot was punched out by Akinfeev, who then somehow managed to lift Stankovic's follow-up shot over the crossbar.
Then Tomas Necid scuppered the chance to punish the Italian side's profligacy with a crucial away goal when he was played in by a neat lob from Deividas Semberas, but he never looked confident with only Julio Cesar to beat and the goalkeeper dived onto the ball to preserve a clean sheet which enhances Internazionale's chances of reaching the semi-finals.
Internazionale (4-2-3-1): Julio Cesar; Zanetti, Materazzi, Samuel, Maicon; Cambiasso, Stankovic; Pandev (Mariga, 90), Sneijder, Eto'o. Substitutes not used: Toldo (gk), Cardoba, Quaresma, Muntari, Chivu, Arnautovic.
CSKA Moscow (4-5-1): Akinfeev; V Berezutski, Ignashevich, A Berezutski, Schennikov; Krasic, Aldonin (Rahimic, 75), Honda (Dzagoev, 69), Semberas, Mamoev (Gonzalez, 73); Necid. Substitutes not used: Chepchugov (gk), Nababkin, Odiah, Guilherme.
Referee: Howard Webb (England)