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By ESPN Staff

Pellegrini praises Villarreal work ethic

VILLARREAL, Spain, April 4 (Reuters) - Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini says his team's dramatic progress to the semi-finals of the Champions League is no accident.

'I wouldn't class this as a miracle or as a dream come true,' said the Chilean after his side beat Inter Milan 1-0 to go through on away goals.

'Our success is based on hard work and the construction of a good squad in recent years.

'We have also got some great players, maybe not as many as sides like Inter or Manchester United. But I would sum up our success as a combination of conviction and hard work.'

Villarreal, playing in the competition for the first time, lost 2-1 in the first leg in Milan, but controlled the return for long periods against the vastly experienced Serie A side.

Argentine defender Rodolfo Arruabarrena scored the decisive goal when he sent a glancing header over Inter keeper Francesco Toldo after Juan Roman Riquelme had clipped a free kick into the area 13 minutes into the second half.

The only down side of the victory was that goalkeeper Sebastian Viera will miss the first leg of the semi-final after picking up a booking late in the game.

Villarreal, who hail from a small Mediterranean town with a population of just 48,000, will now face the winners of the quarter-final between Arsenal and Juventus.

The Primera Liga side, who only had their first taste of European football when they played in the Intertoto Cup in 2002, also reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in their debut season in the competition in 2004.


Pellegrini said he was always confident his side, who began in the third qualifying round of the competition, could get the better of the former European champions.

'I was convinced we would eliminate Inter as I thought we lost unjustly in Milan,' he said. 'We knew we were playing against a great team, but we are a great team too.

'More importantly our players were not satisfied with what they had done. We played a great game and we were better than Inter.

'I wouldn't say we crushed them, but we always had them under control and they were never comfortable. It was an even first half, but we were in charge in the second and we could have won more handsomely.'

Inter coach Roberto Mancini said he was disappointed that his team had failed to live up to expectations.

'The first half was quite even, but we did little to merit a goal and we didn't concentrate enough in defence. We just didn't play well.

'The shame was that we couldn't achieve our objective of reaching the semi-finals of the Champions League. Maybe we should have scored another goal in the first leg in Italy.'