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Sports

Late win gives Bayern upper hand against Inter

Bayern Munich took a big step towards the Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday night, coming away 1-0 victors away to Inter Milan. Mario Gomez scored a tap-in with seconds remaining on the clock.

Gomez scoring the goal past the 'keeper Cesar

Gomez scored after Cesar spilled the ball into his path

Bayern Munich recorded a 1-0 win over Inter Milan in their Champions League knock-out round first-leg clash on Wednesday with a dramatic goal moments before full time.

Mario Gomez snatched the winner with 20 seconds remaining after Dutch winger Arjen Robben fired a shot on goal that swung fiercely, causing Inter keeper Julio Cesar to spill the ball into the path of the onrushing striker who had only to slot the ball home.

Bayern had dictated the tempo for the majority of the game and finished with nearly twice as many attempts on goal as their Italian opponents. The clash could have ended with a few goals apiece were it not for a combination of good goalkeeping and poor finishing by both offensive units.

Arjen Robben (l) vies for the ball with Inter Milan defender Christian Chivu

Robben was supporting Gomez, along with Müller and Ribery

Football analyst Paul Chapman said Bayern's performance was underpinned by strong games from Bayern keeper Thomas Kraft and midfielder Luiz Gustavo.

"Gustavo, in his first Champions League game for Bayern Munich, looked every inch a Champions League player," Chapman said. "He looked like a typical Bayern Munich winner. He put in some very telling tackles, held the ball well, looked confident.

"And I think it was the day Bayern Munich's young goalkeeper justified being the club's number one keeper. I thought Thomas Kraft had a wonderful game. He made three very, very good saves. Certainly his best game as Bayern Munich's number one," he added.

Missed chances

The win banished the demons of the last encounter between these two teams in the Champions League final last May, when Inter came away 2-0 winners thanks to goals from Argentine international Diego Milito. But the prolific forward was absent Wednesday night through injury, leaving Inter coach Leonardo with Samuel Eto'o up front in a lone striker role, with Wesley Sneijder and Dejan Stankovic tucked in behind him.

Bayern coach Louis van Gaal stuck with his 4-2-3-1 structure, with Gomez spearheading the German offense in front of Robben, Thomas Müller and Franck Ribery.

A lot of early mutual respect saw neither team pressure in the opening exchanges, though Bayern began playing to their attacking strengths as the half progressed.

The Italians had a penalty appeal turned down midway through the first half which, on any other day, could have been given.

Robben managed a few useful runs down the right flank throughout the game, on one occasion in the first half whipping in a quick ball to find Ribery, whose header hit the crossbar. Despite the attacking forays, Paul Chapman said he felt the Robben and Ribery failed to have any real impact on the encounter.

Thomas Kraft stops the ball

Kraft made a number of good saves in the match

"They were in and out of this game. Ribery lost far too much possession and Robben wasn't getting too much support down the right flank from Phillip Lahm," he said. "There was no ammunition for Mario Gomez until he got the opportunity in the 90th minute."

Bayern look to progress

The game opened up in the second half with both teams pushing forward, though Bayern still struggled to break down the stubborn Inter defense, which, at times, was unable to move the ball out of its own half. Inter got their act together in the final 10 minutes, providing a fierce finish for a side that hadn't been particularly fierce for much of the evening. But it was Bayern who stole the show with their last gasp winner.

Louis van Gaal told reporters he was surprised by what he said were Inter's attacking intentions.

"They played to win and that is very beautiful. The whole world has seen a wonderful game and I think both sets of fans could be happy with this game," he said. "That is what football is about and having enjoyment in football. In the final last year, they attacked less than they did today and got a better result. But that's football."

Arjen Robben said even though the Bayern players had watched a replay of last year's final, it was not revenge that drove them. "You have to move forward, but I would have preferred to win the other one," he said.

"Inter is still very much in the game and we cannot rest. We have to play very concentrated in Munich and then we can go through."

Around the grounds

In Wednesday night's other game, English giants Manchester United played out a 0-0 draw away at Marseille to set up a favorable return leg at Old Trafford. Both teams failed to create any clear-cut chances, with United's stars failing to turn it on.

Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (l) and Michael Carrick (r) vie for the ball with Olympique Marseille's Rod Fanni

Both Manchester United and Marseille failed to create chances

On Tuesday night, the most successful Champions League club, Real Madrid, found the going tough against perennial nemeses Lyon, who dominated play at the Stade de Gerland but could only manage a 1-1 draw.

Lyon old boy Karim Benzema scored for the Spaniards less than a minute after being brought onto the pitch in the 65th minute thanks to some tricky lead-in play by German star Mesut Özil.

Özil and countryman Sami Khedira were both unable to have much more of an impact on the game, however, and found themselves on the bench minutes after the goal.

But Lyon struck back with an equalizer in the 83rd minute, just as Real looked as though they may break the hoodoo cast upon them by the French club, whom they had not beaten in their previous six encounters.

In Tuesday's other match, FC Chelsea took a significant step forward in their hunt for an elusive first Champions League trophy after defeating FC Copenhagen 2-0 in the Danish capital. Frenchman Nicolas Anelka bagged both goals for the London club - one either side of halftime - putting his team well on their way to the quarter finals with the return leg to be played at Stamford Bridge.

All second-leg fixtures are to be played March 8-16.

Author: Darren Mara
Editor: Richard Connor 

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