Inter reaches Champions League QF after 0-0 draw at Porto
PORTO, Portugal (AP) — Heroic defending and the woodwork helped Inter Milan reach the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in more than a decade.
Inter managed a 0-0 draw at Porto on Tuesday to progress 1-0 on aggregate and join city rival AC Milan in the final eight. Napoli could become the third Italian team in the quarterfinals when it plays Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday.
All the drama was saved for the fifth minute of stoppage time as a goalline clearance, the post and the crossbar prevented Porto from snatching the goal that would have taken the match to extra time.
“In soccer, luck matters relatively,” Inter coach Simone Inzaghi said. “I think that over the both legs we deserved to get to the quarterfinals, we didn’t concede a goal in the 180 minutes against a team that’s used to playing these sort of matches.
“We shouldn’t forget that last year we reached the round of 16 for the first time after more than 10 years, this year the quarterfinals … Now we will play with a lot of confidence.”
There were few other concrete chances at the Estádio Do Dragão as Inter did enough to ensure it advanced to the final eight for the first time since going out at that stage as the defending champion in 2011.
Several Porto players dropped to the ground in tears at the final whistle.
“I think it’s normal to cry after you’re eliminated like this, it’s normal because my players play with passion,” Porto coach Sérgio Conceição said. “They should be proud of how they played these matches, I think we were superior to Inter.
“I’m feeling a mixture of great pride and great frustration. I’m frustrated, sad … I have the same feelings as the fans here at the stadium and at home.”
There are no further restrictions on teams from the same country facing each other so the two Milan sides could be pitted against each other when the draw is made on Friday — just like they were in the semifinals in 2003, when eventual champion Milan emerged victorious.
Romelu Lukaku had scored the all-important goal at San Siro but he started on the bench Tuesday as Inter coach Simone Inzaghi opted for Edin Džeko alongside Lautaro Martínez up front.
And Džeko had the best of the few Inter chances in the 22nd minute but his effort was saved by Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa.
Porto could have already been in front by then as Inter goalkeeper André Onana got the slightest of touches to push Mateus Uribe’s swerving shot round the post in the third minute and also reacted well to smother a scuffed Stephen Eustáquio effort.
The Inter defense dealt well with the Porto pressure but almost got caught out on the counter midway through the second half but Matteo Darmian — who was suffering from a cramp and on a yellow card — rushed back to make a perfectly timed, last-ditch tackle.
Porto poured forward in the seven minutes of stoppage time and had three incredible chances in the space of a minute. Iván Marcano’s shot was cleared off the line by Inter defender Denzel Dumfries, before Onana pushed Mehdi Taremi’s header onto his post and, moments later, a Marko Grujić header came off the crossbar.
Porto defender Pepe was sent off two minutes later following a second yellow card.
Manchester City also advanced to the quarterfinals as it routed Leipzig 7-0 in the night’s other match, with Erling Haaland scoring a record-equaling five goals in a Champions League match.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports