Football's the loser with Inter through to semis, says Benitez


  • Other Sport
  • Thursday, 24 Apr 2003

VALENCIA: Valencia coach Rafa Benitez was damning in his criticism of referee Kim Milton Nielsen and opponents Inter Milan after his side were knocked out of the Champions League on the away goals rule on Tuesday. 

The Spanish side, who lost the first leg at the San Siro 1-0, dominated the game at the Mestalla from start to finish but an early goal from Christian Vieri was enough to see the Serie A side into the semi-finals despite a 2-1 defeat on the night. 

“We were superior in both games against Inter and deserved to win,” said Benitez. “There was no justice in our elimination from the competition.” 

Valencia roared back into the game after Vieri’s early strike as Argentine playmaker Pablo Aimar fired in an equaliser three minutes later. 

The home side then took the lead early in the second half when midfielder Ruben Baraja scored with a powerful diving header. 

But a succession of top-class saves from the outstanding Francesco Toldo kept Inter in the game and denied Valencia a crucial third goal. 

Benitez said he was particularly annoyed that the referee had not awarded a penalty when Inter’s Marco Materazzi had appeared to foul striker Juan Sanchez as he darted into the area midway through the second half. 

“There was only one team out there playing football and if the referee had done what he should have done we would have gone through.  

“There was a clear penalty against (Juan Sanchez) and an aggression in the area that both went unpenalised.” 

He also bemoaned what he claimed were the negative tactics of the Italian side coached by former Valencia boss Hector Cuper. 

“Unfortunately, football lost out there,” said Benitez. “We have to put a stop to the foul play, repeated offences and time wasting of sides like this.” 

“If a team play as well as we did and still go out it is very sad. If all sides played like Inter I don't know if football would disappear, but the stadiums would be empty that’s for sure.” 

In the semi-finals Inter will face either rivals AC Milan or Ajax Amsterdam. – Reuters 

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