Inter Milan will face AC Milan in the semi-finals of the Champions League after sealing a 5-3 aggregate victory over Benfica. Leading 2-0 from the first leg, an early goal from Nicolo Barella put the tie beyond Benfica.
Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa also struck for Inter while Benfica netted three times at San Siro. The first leg of the Champions League semi-finals are on May 9 and 10.
Inter Milan drew 3-3 with Benfica in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final to advance 5-3 on aggregate and set up a derby clash with AC Milan in the semi-finals.
As expected, Benfica started the match on the front foot as they looked to overturn the 2-0 deficit.
Inter took the lead after 14 minutes thanks to a superb finish from Nicolo Barella. The 26-year-old found space in the penalty area before cutting onto his left foot and unleashing a curling effort into the top corner. The goal put Inter 3-0 up on aggregate and firmly in the driving seat to reach the semi-finals.
Roger Schmidt’s side found an equaliser seven minutes before half-time when Rafa Silva fired in a brilliant cross and Fredrik Aursnes was on hand to power a bullet header past Andre Onana.
Buoyed by their strong end to the first half Benfica emerged for the second period with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. They put Inter under pressure for the first 15 minutes but without creating any clear-cut opportunities.
Inter killed the tie off in the 65th minute when Federico Dimarco put the ball on a plate for Lautaro Martinez who was there to tap home and score his first Champions League goal since October. The goal was no less than Martinez deserved after a terrific performance leading the line for his side.
Joaquin Correa scored just minutes after coming on, the 28-year-old dropping his shoulder to go past Nicolas Otamendi before firing an effort past Odysseas Vlachodimos and into the bottom corner.
Benfica grabbed two late consolations with Antonio Silva heading home from Alejandro Grimaldo’s free-kick and then Petar Musa netting in injury-time. It was a spirited end to the match for the Eagles who didn’t give up until the final whistle but just didn’t have enough over two legs to make it past Inter.
The first leg of the Champions League semi-finals will be on May 9 or 10.
AC Milan’s dispatching of Napoli and Inter’s 5-3 aggregate victory means that we will see the Derby della Madonnina in the Champions League semi-finals.
It is the first time two Italian clubs have made it to the final four of Europe’s elite football competition since 2003. For AC Milan, it is the first time they have made it to this stage since 2007 and for Inter it is the first time since 2009/10 – both of those times the Milan teams went on to win the competition.
This feels like it is a significant moment for Italian football and it’s not just in the Champions League either; in the Europa League Juventus will go in to tomorrow’s quarter-final against Sporting with a 1-0 lead, while Roma trail Feyenoord 1-0, and in the Conference League Fiorentina are already 4-1 up on aggregate against Lech Poznan and are practically in the semi-final. Italian football is back.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – LAUTARO MARTINEZ
The Argentina forward came into the match on a goal drought but looked as sharp as ever tonight. He provided the assist for Barella’s opener and then turned scorer to fire his side ahead in the second half when Benfica were pushing for another goal.
He worked hard off the ball too, winning five of his duels and making one tackle. His passing was crisp and accurate and was a real threat to the Benfica defence. A great performance from the 25-year-old.