Jose Mourinho maintained his 100% record in the Champions League quarter-finals as Inter knocked out CSKA Moscow to reach the semi-final stage for the first time since 2002/03.
Wesley Sneijder scored the all-important early goal at the Luzhniki Stadium to add to Diego Milito’s 65th-minute strike in Milan, leaving Inter in charge of their destiny and the Russians needing three goals.
An already uphill task became even steeper for the Muscovites shortly after the restart when Chidi Odiah was dismissed for a second booking.
Eleven against ten and a two-goal lead on aggregate made for a walk in a synthetic park for the Nerazzurri who peppered Akinfeev’s area throughout the second half.
CSKA coach Slutsky brought in Dzagoev and Gonzalez – both subs in the first leg – for suspended pair Krasic and Aldonin, otherwise naming an unchanged side from the first leg.
Mourinho waited on the fitness of Sneijder until the last minute, the Dutchman passing a late test on his ankle knock to start in a 4-2-3-1 starting lineup with Stankovic preferred to Thiago Motta in midfield and Lucio returning from suspension to replace Materazzi in defence.
The gamble paid off as early as the sixth minute when Sneijder rifled a long-range free kick under the wall to put the Nerazzurri in control of the quarter-final tie.
The Muscovites failed to take their chances with Honda and Gonzalez wasting long-range free kicks and Necid going inches close with a low shot from 20 yards. Slutsky’s men were left rueing more missed chances with Dzagoev mis-firing in front of goal and substitute Odiah forcing a tipped save from Julio Cesar.
Adopting a cat and mouse approach, Inter sought opportunites on the counter-attack and Milito was presented with a decent one just before the break but the Argentine was denied by Akinfeev.
The second half started in the worst possible way for CSKA, with Odiah receiving his marching orders after getting a second yellow card for his foul on Eto’o.
Apart from a couple of efforts from Gonzalez, Julio Cesar was rarely troubled. Instead, his CSKA counterpart Akinfeev was suddenly a very busy man.
Leaving nothing to chance, Mourinho withdrew Pandev in the 63rd minute and introduced Chivu, with Zanetti pushing up to midfield as Inter went from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3, and the shots rained in.
Sneijder had a fast curling shot palmed away by the CSKA keeper, who moments later tipped round Stankovic’s bullet shot before making a double save at point-blank range from Milito.
Zanetti, whose night out at the Luzhniki saw him become one of the top ten appearance makers in UEFA club competitions, had a chance of his own but Akinfeev was equal again.
Inter will play at home to Arsenal or Barcelona in the first leg of the semi-final on Tuesday 20 April, with the return leg on Wednesday 28 April.