Joaquin Correa helped Inter battle into the Champions League semi-finals
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Inter Milan set up a Champions League semi-final derby with AC Milan, edging Benfica 5-3 on aggregate after a thrilling 3-3 draw in the second leg at the San Siro.
The Italian side carried over a 2-0 lead from the first leg in Lisbon and that result proved critical as Benfica fought hard, scoring twice in the closing minutes to fight back from 3-1 down on the night.
Nicolo Barella, Lautaro Martinez and substitute Joaquin Correa all hit the target for Inter, with Fredrik Aursnes levelling in the first half before Antonio Silva and Petar Musa completed a fine but futile comeback.
Simone Inzaghi’s men now face a tantalising clash against their city rivals in the last four next month, with a place in the Istanbul final up for grabs.
Benfica started brightly, with Inter happy to wait for opportunities to open up on the counter-attack, but it was a moment of quality from Barella that drew first blood for the Serie A outfit.
Having opened the scoring in the first leg, the midfielder repeated the trick with a lovely curling finish into the corner. Edin Dzeko played his part, winning possession to put Benfica under pressure, before Martinez and Barella dovetailed smartly as they worked their way into the penalty area. Barella’s left-footed strike capped the move in style to give his side a three-goal buffer.
Inter fought their way past Benfica to deliver a tantalising semi-final
Benfica knew they had to find a riposte but could have gone two behind as Alessandro Bastoni and Dzeko both missed presentable headed chances.
Andre Onana sprang into action in the Inter goal to deny Chiquinho from long range and again from a corner, but Benfica found a foothold in the 38th minute to go in at half-time level on the night.
Norwegian midfielder Aursnes was the scorer, nipping in front of Denzel Dumfries to meet a fine cross from Rafa Silva and nod the ball home.
Benfica came out at a good tempo after the break but once again found their wings clipped as Inter regained the lead in the 65th minute. Henrikh Mkhitaryan did well to find a pocket of space in the final third, Federico Dimarco whipped in the cross and Martinez delivered the first-time finish.
Correa stretched the advantage moments after stepping off the bench, bending one past Odysseas Vlachodimos to seemingly put the game to bed. Benfica refused to allow the tie to drift to a conclusion, partially muting the celebrations in the stands.
Antonio Silva made it 3-2 when he headed home Alex Grimaldo’s delivery in the 86th minute before Musa completed the scoring deep in added time. He was the first to react to a deflection in the box, turning and firing past Onana as the Portuguese Liga leaders bowed out of Europe with their fighting spirit intact.
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