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Late goals save AC Milan but Inter depart

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Apr 5 (Reuters) AC Milan sneaked through to the Champions League semi-finals with two late strikes but city rivals Inter were eliminated on the away goals rule.

Six-times former European champions AC Milan were facing elimination before Filippo Inzaghi and Andriy Shevchenko netted in the last five minutes to give the Italians a dramatic 3-1 victory following a goalless first leg in France yesterday.

In Spain, Villarreal reached the last four in their debut season in Europe's elite club competition when defender Rodolfo Arruabarrena headed the only goal in a 1-0 win over Inter, who had led 2-1 from the first leg of their quarter-final.

In the semi-finals AC Milan will play Barcelona or Benfica, who meet at the Nou Camp today after a goalless first leg. Villarreal face either Arsenal or Italian league leaders Juventus. Arsenal hold a 2-0 lead going into today's second leg in Turin.

Lyon were the better team for much of an eventful match at the San Siro but Milan took the lead against the run of play when Inzaghi headed in Clarence Seedorf's accurate cross after 25 minutes.

Midfielder Mahamadou Diarra bravely headed Lyon's equaliser six minutes later, the away goal putting them ahead in the tie. Lyon striker Fred also struck the post with a header before halftime with Milan's defending uncharacteristically slack.

The French league leaders, trying to reach the last four for the first time, were comfortable for most of the second half until Shevchenko rattled both posts with a low shot after 88 minutes and Inzaghi slammed in the rebound for his second of the game.

OUTSTANDING RIQUELME Shevchenko then raced through to seal a flattering victory three minutes into stoppage time. The Ukraine striker's effort meant he overtook Real Madrid's Raul as the competition's all-time leading scorer with 52 goals.

''We have the kind of quality in our attack that can pull something out for us even when things aren't going so well,'' said a relieved Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Lyon manager Gerard Houllier said: ''It is extremely disappointing, we performed so well and were probably better than Milan.'' After a tight first half in Spain, Villarreal emerged the more threatening in the second half and after 58 minutes they scored the tie's decisive goal.

Outstanding Argentine playmaker Juan Riquelme curled in a free kick and compatriot Arruabarrena flicked it past Inter keeper Francesco Toldo.

The game turned ugly soon after when another of Villarreal's Argentines, Juan Pablo Sorin, was elbowed in the face by Inter defender Marco Materazzi off the ball.

Inter seldom threatened an equaliser, though, and goalkeeper Francesco Toldo made fine saves from shots by Diego Forlan and Riquelme to deny Villarreal further goals.

''I was convinced we would eliminate Inter as I thought we lost unjustly in Milan,'' Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini said. ''We knew we were playing against a great team, but we are a great team too.'' Reuters PDS GC0939

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