Pandev Inter's most unlikely hero

MUNICH - Inter Milan's Goran Pandev was in such poor form he was left out of the Champions League last 16 first leg against Bayern Munich but the quiet Macedonian sprang to life at the perfect time in the return game.

Inter's astonishing 3-2 win at Bayern on Tuesday powered the holders into the quarter-finals after Pandev struck two minutes from time to seal a 3-3 aggregate draw and an away goals triumph.

The striker has scored just two Serie A goals all season and faced the ignominy of being omitted in the home leg when coach Leonardo went with just Samuel Eto'o up front despite Diego Milito's injury and Giampaolo Pazzini's ineligibility.

With goals desperately needed in the Allianz Arena, the Brazilian boss opted to start Pandev despite his troubles and the forward repaid the faith in bucketloads as Inter started to show the form which took them to glory last term.

"Football is strange," Pandev told Sky television.

"But I believed right until the end. I've worked a lot in recent months, I've not been great physically. It's been a great match, we went in front, then we suffered a lot but we have created chances and in the end the true Inter shone through."

Inter spared Italy the shock of having all three remaining Champions League teams dumped out in the last 16 following AS Roma and Serie A leaders AC Milan's exits while the victory also spared goalkeeper Julio Cesar's blushes.

The Brazilian walked home from the San Siro in anger after making a mistake which led to Mario Gomez's 90th minute goal in the first leg and he let the ball slip again in the return encounter as the German striker made it 1-1.

Samuel Eto'o had already given Inter a fourth minute lead but when Thomas Mueller put Bayern 2-1 up on the night just after the half hour mark, the visitors' task looked all but impossible.

However, Wesley Sneijder struck on 63 minutes and Pandev's coolly taken winner showed why Inter triumphed last season and why they could again be contenders this term if their battle for a sixth straight Serie A title does not distract them.

Club president Massimo Moratti even received a congratulatory phone call from Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho, who led Inter to last season's unprecedented treble.

"Mourinho called me, He was very happy for our victory," a euphoric Moratti said.


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