Inter Milan beats Twente 1-0 in Champions League
Esteban Cambiasso scored in the second half to earn a nervous Inter Milan side a 1-0 victory over FC Twente and a place for the holders in the last 16 of the Champions League on Wednesday.
The Argentine midfielder struck 10 minutes into the second half after Inter had earlier wasted a number of promising openings.
After the goal, Rafa Benitez's side continued to dominate, but lacked the composure to add to the score, though Wesley Sneijder and Goran Pandev both hit the bar.
''I am delighted for the team. We won with our heads and our hearts and this is how we qualified,'' Benitez said. ''Today we showed all our determination and character. We had a lot of shots and deserved the win,'' he said. ''The team did really well, especially the young players.''
The win lifts the pressure on Benitez after speculation began to mount that Inter would sack him if Inter lost to Twente, despite club president Massimo Moratti insisting the Spaniard would stay.
Inter had been on a run of five games without a win in the Champions League and Serie A.
''I think that the team was playing very well, but then because we had a few injuries we lost a few matches that we should have won,'' Benitez said. ''But because of the way we were playing it was clear that we the squad still believed in itself.
''It is clear we had to be concentrated tonight,'' he said. ''We did everything we could to score a second, a third and a fourth and I am happy with what we did.''
Twente substitute Denny Landzaat had the Dutch team's best chance of the match with a long range effort that rattled the woodwork.
The result means Inter stays second behind Tottenham Hotspur in group A, with both teams on 10 points, while Twente is third with five points.
''We were in a tough group and the important thing is to be still in European football in February,'' Twente coach Michel Preud'homme said. ''We have played well away from home against Tottenham and Inter and we have to learn from these experiences and learn from these great teams as we aren't yet at the level to challenge them.''
Inter began in determined mood and could have opened the scoring in the third minute. Dejan Stankovic played in Jonathan Biabiany on the right flank who crossed to Sneijder at the near post, but the Dutchman volleyed wide from close range.
Stankovic then went close in the seventh with a long range shot that flew narrowly over the bar.
Twente's first chance came in the 12th. Bryan Ruiz rose above Marco Materazzi and Javier Zanetti to reach Nacer Chadli's cross, but he sent it over the bar.
Inter continued to dominate. Sneijder clipped a free kick off the bar and Twente goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov raced off his line to block Pandev's effort.
Mihaylov again kept Twente in the match in the 25th, when he pushed Samuel Eto'o's shot over the bar.
As Inter failed to convert its chances, Twente grew in confidence. Theo Janssen's powerful shot from the edge of the area was saved by Luca Castelazzi in the 30th after the ball ran free on the edge of the area, and a minute later Ruiz broke down Inter's left and lofted a shot wide.
''In the first half we played well and that is a great thing to do against a team as good as Inter, even if we didn't take our chances,'' Preud'homme said.
Just before halftime, Eto'o set up Cambiasso for a close range shot, but Twente defender Thilo Leugers headed it clear.
Inter started the second half strongly. Eto'o had a shot saved by Mihaylov and Pandev rattled the top of the crossbar after he turned and shot on the edge of the area.
Cambiasso's goal came after Sneijder's freekick was deflected by the wall and the Argentine reacted fastest to fire past a group of defenders into the net.
Inter kept pushing for a wider lead, and Zanetti dribbled down the left wing and fired a shot that Mihaylov pushed away for a corner in the 69th.
Eto'o then had a low shot held and Mihaylov pushed Stankovic's long-range shot away for a corner.
Sneijder clipped narrowly wide after Eto'o had played him in behind the Twente defense and Stankovic blasted over the bar from close in from a layoff by Pandev.
Twente came close to an equalizer when Landzaat became the third played to hit the bar when he chipped Castelazzi in the 75th.