Ecstatic Leonardo lauds Inter late show

Inter Milan manager Leonardo thanked the heavens after his side stole a Champions League quarter-final spot from Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Inter, who defeated Bayern in the Champions League final last season, looked set to be dumped out of Europe in the last 16 as they travelled to the Allianz Arena on the wrong side of a 1-0 aggregate.

Samuel Eto’o levelled the tie at 1-1 with a goal in the fourth minute, but first-half goals to Bayern duo Mario Gomez and Thomas Mueller put Bayern up 2-1 ahead.

But Leonardo’s men rallied in the second half as goals to Wesley Sneijder and Goran Pandev sealed a 3-2 victory for Inter on the night, with the 3-3 aggregate result seeing the Italian champions progress on away goals.

Leonardo, who was overcome with joy after witnessing Pandev’s 88th-minute winner, was still too moved to speak of the game after the match.

“It is very difficult to explain this game – we won, that’s all that matters,” Leonardo said.

“I don’t want to go into technical details now. I prefer to focus on my players’ heart.”

“I’m so happy for Pandev, who has had a very difficult period. He has been criticised for missing a few chances but he has always continued to work hard and he has been repaid tonight.”

“It’s a great moment, a fantastic joy and I can only thank God for letting me experience this feeling tonight.”

“It’s a sign that these players have great faith in the team, we never give up. The European champions are still standing.”

Bayern coach Louis van Gaal, who is resigned to departing the club at the season’s end without a trophy, said his side simply wanted victory too much.

“It is a pity. It’s not the first time this has happened, four or five times already this season we have given away a match we should have won and today it happened again,” van Gaal said.

“We could have settled matters earlier. Instead Inter are still standing, still have a chance – even if they hardly created any tonight, they did convert them. That’s always a possibility in football.”

“We should have stayed compact, but we didn’t and ran into trouble. That’s what I meant when I warned them not to want too much. We made too many defensive mistakes, conceded too easily.”

“The players gave their all, which is the criteria for a coach to judge if he is still getting through to the team.”

“They enjoyed the match and so did the fans; now we are all disappointed we lost but we witnessed a good match.”