Inter Milan were mere minutes from forcing extra time in their Champions League clash with Marseille only for a bizarre final few minutes to see the tie go to the visitors. Things had looked promising for Inter throughout - although the game was poor the Ligue 1 side didn't look like doing much of anything but occasionally fling crosses at Lucio and Walter Samuel - and Steve Mandanda was forced into a pair of excellent saves from Wesley Sneijder and Diego Milito in the first half.
Both will have been ruing their missed opportunities as it looked like Marseille might just hold out for a draw, but Milito eventually made up for his fairly tame earlier effort by slotting past Mandanda following an episode of pinball in the box. With that goal, a feeling of dread struck the viewers. 1-0 each meant another half hour of this! Someone save us!
It didn't look as though our collective prayers would be heard. Inter aren't that good and Marseille weren't trying, and the French team looked as though they were playing a quite-funny joke on the world when they swapped Loic Remy for Brandao in the 88th minute. It turns out that the joke was on ... us. But in a different way. Within three minutes of taking the field, Brandao had latched onto a long punt from Mandanda, wriggled past the Inter defense, and dispatched a shot past Julio Cesar to make it 1-1 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate.
Critically, Marseille also had an away goal, and that meant that Inter had about 90 seconds to score two goals in order to advance. Considering it took them all of February and a little bit of March to score one, some skepticism about the likelihood of their progression was warranted.
Still, Inter went forward, and they did so with an urgency that wasn't really there for most of the match. Giampaolo Pazzini, who had been restricted to the substitute's bench for the game's initial hour, surged into the box and was chopped down by Mandanda for a penalty. The goalkeeper had already been booked for timewasting and the foul was worth a second yellow, so he trudged off while Gennaro Bracigliano took his place in the net.
The substitute goalkeeper had no chance at saving Pazzini's penalty, blasted high and true to his right, but then again he probably didn't care very much. Mandanda's dismissal ended up eating most of the time left, and the penalty was the very last action of the game. It's not often that you see the defense celebrate so heartily immediately after conceding a goal, but there you have it. Marseille are through to the quarterfinals, but real trouble looms for Inter.