Emmanuel Adebayor answered the racist taunts of Inter Milan fans by scoring a killer away goal on a night that so nearly ended in humiliation for Tottenham.
SCORERS: Inter Milan - Cassano (20), Palacio (52), Gallas (75og), Alvarez (110); Tottenham - Adebayor (96)
aet, 4-4 on agg Spurs win on away goals
Referee: I Bebek (Cro)
Tottenham crushed Inter 3-0 in the first leg but the Italian giants outclassed Andre Villas-Boas’ shellshocked side last night in the first 90 minutes.
Antonio Cassano put Inter ahead after 20 minutes and Rodrigo Palacio made it 2-0 after the break before William Gallas stabbed the ball into his own net to level the tie at 3-3 on aggregate.
Inter laid siege to the Spurs goal in the hunt for a fourth but the visitors held on and Adebayor scored against the run of play in the first period of extra-time.
Inter scored again through Ricardo Alvarez to bring the tie level on aggregate but Adebayor’s away goal was enough to see Spurs through to the last eight of the Europa League.
The match action was a thrilling advert for the often-derided competition but the night was tarnished by racist abuse from the home fans towards Togo striker Adebayor.
Villas-Boas’ team, without suspended star man Gareth Bale, dominated the early exchanges, but they did not test goalkeeper Samir Handanovic. Jan Vertonghen swung his right leg at Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross, but he missed. Thereafter Inter took control.
Esteban Cambiasso picked out Cassano with a through-ball but Brad Friedel saved well from the Italy striker.
Cassano broke through the Spurs back four once again after William Gallas misjudged the flight of the ball. The Frenchman raced back and appeared to nudge Cassano over, but the referee did not award a penalty.
Cassano did not fail to beat Friedel at the third time of asking, however. The 30-year-old got on the end of a Palacio cross after Jonathan cut out Kyle Naughton and headed home from six yards. Tottenham were panicking and soon after the restart Cassano found Palacio with a through-ball and he curled a shot beyond Friedel to make it 2-0.
Villas-Boas threw on Lewis Holtby and Aaron Lennon in a bid to give his team more impetus but Inter continued to lay siege to the away box.
Inter’s quest to find a third goal looked set for failure until they won a free-kick 25 yards out with 15 minutes to go.
Cassano struck the wall with a powerful low effort but it squirmed through and Gallas stuck out a leg and poked the ball past an off-balance Friedel.
Early in extra-time Adebayor made the breakthrough for Spurs, stabbing past Handanovic after the Inter goalkeeper had spilled Belgian midfielder Mousa Dembele’s shot.
In the 110th minute Ricardo Alvarez nodded home from Cassano’s cross to make it 4-4 on aggregate with the 2,000 visiting fans biting their fingernails but the away goal proved vital and Tottenham held on to enter the hat for the quarter-finals.