Inter Milan were the victims of the away goals rule in their UEFA Europa League match against Tottenham Hotspur, with their valiant comeback curtailed in extra time.
Tottenham suffered a fright before sneaking past Inter Milan to reach the Europa League quarter-finals and restore some national pride following England’s Champions League misery.
With Manchester United and Arsenal beaten at the last 16 stage of Europe’s premier club competition, it was left to the Europa League participants to maintain English interest in European football this season.
And although they lost 4-1 on the night, Spurs went through on away goals thanks to last week’s 3-0 success at White Hart Lane.
But without the suspended Gareth Bale, Spurs made hard work of progressing as they needed extra-time to do so after trailing 3-0 when the 90 minutes were up.
Inter played like a team that had nothing to lose and their lively front pairing of Antonio Cassano and Rodrigo Palacio caused Spurs trouble from the off.
It was little surprise when they took the lead as Palacio ran onto a clever pass from full-back Jonathan that dissected Spurs’ defence, before crossing for Cassano to plant a downward header beyond Brad Friedel.
Spurs knew an away goal was all that was needed to break the home side’s spirits but they proved wasteful with the chances that came their way as Inter left gaps at the back in their eagerness to attack.
Cassano then dinked a ball over the top for Palacio whose shot beat Friedel but crashed back off the bar.
But Togo forward Emmanuel Adebayor should have killed the tie right at the end of the opening half following a mistake from Juan, only to chip both Samir Handanovic and the bar.
And after Spurs wasted another glorious chance at the start of the second period, Palacio ran beyond the backline onto Esteban Cambiasso’s through ball before calmly beating Friedel.
With just a quarter of an hour remaining, Cassano’s weak and seemingly innocuous free-kick took a couple of deflections, the last off William Gallas’s thigh, before trickling into the net.
Cambiasso almost won it for Inter in stoppage time but dragged his shot when clean through inches wide of the far post.
Yet it was Tottenham who seemed the more fired up once the extra period began as Handanovic did brilliantly to save from Jan Vertonghen before Gallas somehow planted a free header wide.
However, Inter soon cracked as Handanovic couldn’t hold Mousa Dembele’s stinging strike and Adebayor beat veterans Javier Zanetti and Cristian Chivu to the rebound to poke home the crucial away goal.
Ricardo Alvarez headed in a fourth for Inter from Cassano’s cross 10 minutes from time to ensure a thrilling tie kept everyone on tenterhooks right to the death.
Basel held on for an entire half with a one-man disadvantage to edge out Zenit St Petersburg 2-1 on aggregate after a defeat in Moscow.
Belgian Axel Witsel scored the only goal of the game on the half-hour mark and although they had Marcelo Diaz sent off on the stroke of half-time, Basel clung on to the lead their 2-0 victory in the first leg had offered them.
They had goalkeeper Yann Sommer to thank for saving a late Roman Shirokov penalty to deny Zenit a period of extra time.
There was better news for another Russian side, though, as Rubin Kazan beat Spaniards Levante 2-0 to progress by the same score on aggregate.
After two goalless games, extra time was needed in Moscow to separate the sides.
Venezuela’s Jose Rondon opened the scoring 10 minutes into the extra period before substitute Vladimir Dyadyun sealed the Dagestanis’ place in the last eight.