Inter spare Italy's blushes, United thank Hernandez

PARIS, March 15, 2011 (AFP) - Champions League holders Inter Milan showed their class on Tuesday with a brilliant 3-2 win away at Bayern Munich in their Last 16 second leg match to go through on the away goals rule - it finished 3-3 on aggregate - and ensure there is an Italian team in the quarter-finals.

Inter's victory against the side they beat in last season's final was also the first time since Ajax - managed at the time by Bayern handler Louis van Gaal - in the 1995/96 edition that a team had overturned a first leg home deficit to progress since the Champions League replaced the European Cup.

Bayern Munich's midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (C) holds his head next to Bayern Munich's French midfielder Franck Ribery (R) during the match between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. AFP

Inter - whose Serie A rivals AC Milan and AS Roma had been eliminated last week - were joined in the last eight by Manchester United, who weakened by injuries still proved too strong for French champions Marseille winning 2-1 at home and on aggregate.

A double by Mexican Javier Hernandez was enough to give their manager Sir Alex Ferguson his 100th Champions League victory.

Inter's victory looked far from assured when they were trailing 2-1 in the second-half but goals by the inestimable Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder and then a neatly taken goal two minutes from time by Goran Pandev sealed a remarkable victory.

Inter coach Leonardo sank to the ground in delight as Pandev's shot hit the back of the net and the Brazilian sang the praises of his players, who looked to have lost their way when he replaced Rafael Benitez in late December.

"In one year, this team has had three coaches (Jose Mourinho left after doing the treble last season), three different ways of thinking and three different languages," said the 41-year-old former AC Milan handler.

"You have to be highly intelligent to cope with all that, after having won everything.

"The great quality of this team, is its intelligence.

"It has a tactical intelligence and natural intuition.

"It is capable of anything, it is improving by the day, and it could yet still be our year in the championship, the Champions League and the Cup."

Van Gaal, whose star has plummeted to the extent he is out of a job at the end of the season after landing the domestic double and a place in the Champions League final last term, said that Bayern had been their own worst enemy.

"When you lose a match like that, it is very disappointing, but the most disappointing aspect is that we have once again self-destructed," said the 59-year-old Dutchman, who landed the 1995 trophy with Ajax before losing in the 1996 final.

"It is not the first time it has happened this season, we still have not learnt from our mistakes."

United - whose already weakened defence had to deal with the late withdrawal of Serbian captain Nemanja Vidic with a calf injury - lived dangerously towards the end of their match with a Wes Brown own-goal making it harder than it should have been.

"It was nervy because players kept on coming off injured," said Ferguson.

"But I think that the experienced players like Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick did really well for us tonight."

Regarding who they got in the quarter-finals the 69-year-old was pretty relaxed.

"You just take what you get.

"You never get what you wish for."

His Marseille counterpart Didier Deschamps bemoaned an opportunity missed.

"We missed a real chance to beat an under strength Manchester United side this evening," said Deschamps, who guided Monaco to a surprise spot in the 2004 final.

"We had our chances and didn't take them and despite conceding those goals we still could have won.

"We should have done better. But at this level you need to be playing these type of matches regularly, it is a learning process."

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