Sneijder strikes early as Inter reach semi-finals

CSKA Moscow 0 Internazionale 1 (Inter win 2-0 on aggregate)


Internazionale reached the last four of the Champions League for the first time since 2003 as they eased to a 2-0 aggregate victory in Moscow.

Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder grabbed the only goal of the game in the sixth minute as his low free-kick found its way through the CSKA wall and beyond goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.

Things got worse for the hosts when they had substitute Chidi Odiah sent off early in the second half and Inter were comfortably able to repel any pressure from their hosts and coast in the last four.

Overhauling their first-leg deficit always looked like being a tough task for the home side, given the way they were completely outplayed at the San Siro last week and the absence of key midfielder Yevgeny Aldonin and Milos Krasic through suspension.

But they made a bright start on the plastic pitch at Luzhniki Stadium and had an early effort on goal from Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda, who dragged a long-range effort wide.

But Inter landed an early body blow as they opened the scoring.

Midfielder Sneijder drilled in a low free-kick that flew under the leaping wall and fooled keeper Akinfeev to end up in the back of the net.

That goal meant the hosts needed to score three goals to have any chance of going through and Inter went close to getting their second goal of the night as Goran Pandev had a sight of goal, but Akinfeev comfortably held his shot.

Conceding the goal prompted an early response from CSKA manager Leonid Slutsky as he hauled off defender Vasili Berezutsky after just 13 minutes to replace him with Odiah.

Honda then fired wide with two optimistic free-kick efforts from distance, but the hosts did go close to grabbing a goal back when Tomas Necid fired agonisingly wide after controlling Odiah's pass in the 24th minute.

The hosts then carved out another chance in the 34th minute as they broke quickly through Mark Gonzalez, but Alan Dzagoev made a mess of the finish, scuffing the ball infield as he drove into the box.

And that miss was almost instantly punished as Sneijder's excellent lofted ball played Diego Milito in, but the Argentinian forward could only hit his shot at Akinfeev.

Odiah then saw Julio Cesar tip his shot round the post at the other end, but the Italian champions looked comfortable soaking up any CSKA pressure.

And things got even worse for the Russian side when Odiah was dismissed just three minutes into the second half as his rash lunge for a loose ball saw him bring down Samuel Eto'o to earn himself a second yellow card.

But they continued to push forward in search of a goal and midfielder Gonzalez had two chances in the space of a minute.

The Chile international firstly smashed a half-volley that Julio Cesar did well to hang on to, before dragging another effort wide from the edge of the box.

With 20 minutes to go Jose Mourinho's side were dominating possession, sweeping the ball around at will, and Sneijder and Dejan Stankovic both forced Akinfeev into action with powerful efforts, and the keeper did superbly to keep out Milito's effort with the Argentina international through on goal.

The game rather petered out from that point, although Eto'o just failed to add a second as he shot over the bar in the final minutes.

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