NAIROBI, Kenya, March 9 – Liverpool slipped into a fourth Champions League quarter-final in five years despite a rare 1-0 loss at Anfield to Inter Milan as the English giants progressed 2-1 at the total.
The Italian champions couldn’t climb the mountain they needed to climb after losing the first leg 2-0 at home three weeks ago despite Lautaro Martinez’s sensational strike into the top corner just after the hour mark Game.
Alexis Sanchez’s red card soon after broke any momentum for Inter and Liverpool comfortably held on with the extra man to take their place in the last eight.
Inter had to concede two late goals at Milan three weeks ago after enjoying the best of the game for much of the first leg.
The Italian champions started with a thirst to make amends as they pinned the Reds in the first half without seriously testing Alisson Becker at the helm of a dangerous free-kick from Hakan Calhanoglu which the Brazilian parried for safety.
Liverpool took half an hour to pose any threat but when they did they again revealed frailty in Inter’s defense from set pieces.
Roberto Firmino’s header from a corner opened the stalemate when the two sides met at the San Siro.
Joel Matip was inches from a repeat as his header crashed into the bar before, from the resulting corner, Virgil Van Dijk’s effort was deflected.
After a subdued first 45 minutes, Liverpool were kicked in by Jurgen Klopp at the break and should have taken the lead on the night minutes after the restart when Mohamed Salah turned a stray ball inside the box onto the post.
At the other end, Martinez appeared to have squandered the chance to put Inter in the draw when he fired wide from the edge of the box.
But the Argentine made amends in spectacular fashion when he netted an effort into the top corner from outside the box in the 62nd minute.
Inter’s joy lasted barely a minute before being reduced to 10 men by Sanchez’s indiscipline.
The Chilean was lucky enough to escape with just a yellow card for a dangerous lunge on Thiago Alcantara just before half-time and foolishly dived on Fabinho to clinch a second yellow.
Salah hit the post again with 15 minutes remaining and only an incredible block from Arturo Vidal denied Luis Diaz stoppage time as Liverpool failed to make their power play count.
Klopp’s men have only managed to score for the fourth time this season and suffered only a third defeat in 44 games in all competitions.
But their quest for a historic quadruple of trophies remains intact as Inter’s 10 men could barely get their foot on the ball in the closing stages, let alone score another goal to extend the game.