Dubai Cup Semi-finals – Inter and Ajax Neutralize to a 2-2 Draw, Penalty Shootout Favors the Nerazzurri

Mohammed bin Rashid International Football Championship - 2008 Dubai Cup

The first 90 minutes of Inter’s new year have ended in a draw. Yes, it was only a friendly tournament, and yes almost all the big stars were absent, so it really doesn’t mean much. However, it’s reassuring to see that even at some point, the ruthless goal-machine Roberto Mancini has created has to stop. Standing in the Nerazzurri’s way this time were Ajax Amsterdam, with seasoned veterans like Edgar Davids, established stars like Klaas Jan Huntelaar, and emerging prodigies like Hedwiges Maduro.

And even if they did only manage a draw against the Godenzonen (courtesy of a Julio Cruz double and goals by Kenneth Perez and Johnny Heitinga), Inter did grab the ticket to the final by winning the penalty shootout 3-2. They will be facing Brazil’s Internacional de Porto Alegre, victors of Vfb Stuttgart 1-0 in the other semi-final.

Dubai Cup Semi-finals - Inter 2-2 Ajax (5-4 p.s.o.)

Tactically, in true friendly match-style Inter coach Roberto Mancini chose to give his younger and reserve players a shot in this match, by keeping out regular starters like Córdoba, Zanetti, Materazzi, and Jiménez (Zlatan I think, was not even on the gamesheet). The Nerazzurri backline was composed of Nelson Rivas, Nicolás Burdisso, Cristian Chivu, and Maxwell. In midfield, we found the irreplaceable Esteban Cambiasso coupled with Santiago Solari and Portuguese youth prodigy Pelé, supporting the attack of David Suazo and Julio Cruz. In addition, the Inter coach gave two of 1988-born players a chance: Enrico Alfonso in net and Luca Siligardi as the playmaker behind the two strikers.

The two Inter youngsters showed off some good things in the initial minutes, Sigliardi with a show slightly off the mark in minute 7, and Alfonso with a few close-range saves. Nevertheless, it was Ajax who had the best of the chances at first, especially through their star striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar who had 3 back-to-back opportunities but produced average shots. Taking advantage of the Dutch team’s missed chances, Inter were then first to get on the scoreboard: exploiting a cross from David Suazo, Julio Cruz controlled the ball with his chest and beat Stekelenburg with a close-range left-footed tackle into the net. 1-0 Inter in minute 16.

The Nerazzurri lead was effectively short-lived however: 2 minutes later, Danish striker Kenneth Perez received a long throw-in, got rid of Pelé and Burdisso marking him, and executed a precise right-footed finish from the edge of the box. Goal Ajax, and 1-1 at the break.

At the restart, Ajax coach Adrie Koster (subbing in for Henk ten Cate, who went to Chelsea, while the Ajax board find a replacement) decided to change 4 players and give his substitutes a chance to shine. Mancini on the other hand, decided to wait until minute 68 to replace Siligardi with emerging wonderkid Mario Balotelli. Not before allowing a few events to unfold.

Inter’s present being tailed by Inter’s past: David Suazo vs. Edgar DavidsFirst, the Primavera playmaker (before his substitution) had the chance to put Inter back in the lead, but one-on-one with the Ajax keeper he ventured a dribbling which was deftly neutralized by Stekelenburg. Then a minute later, Suazo had an almost open-net chance when, through on goal, he sidestepped the keeper but found his finishing shot angled wide of the mark. Finally, Cruz received a really long ball from his defensive line and was clear on net, with virtually no pressure from the tailing defenders. Unfortunately, he could not find the winning trajectory to beat the Ajax keeper, who parried away. Tough luck for Inter. Even tougher luck in minute 66, when their keeper Alfonso missed a defensive pass, allowed Suarez to intercept, and then tripped him inside the box conceding a penalty. Duly transformed by Johnny Heitinga, 2-1 Ajax.

The Primavera keeper had the chance to redeem himself a few minutes later, by saving a difficult shot by Dennis Rommedahl. Then fortunately for Inter, from a Cristian Chivu corner-kick Julio “El Jardinero” Cruz re-established a tied score, with a precise header inside the post. 2-2.

This was the final scoreline after 90 minutes, which saw a couple more Inter (Balotelli crossbar) and Ajax (Leonardo wide) scoring opportunities. In the penalty shootout, the mistakes of Van der Heijden, Kennedy and Heitenga proved to be decisive, despite the save of Stekelenburg on Cristian Chivu’s spot-kick.

In the final, the Nerazzurri will be facing Internacional de Porto Alegre, who won their semi-final 1-0 vs. Vfb Stuttgart. The FINAL MATCH match is scheduled for Monday January 7th at 21:00 local time (18:00 CET and 12:00 ET).


F.C. Internazionale Milano
(5-4 p.s.o.)
[Match Highlights]
GOALSCORERS: 16′, 68’ Cruz (I), 18′ Perez (A), 63′ Heitinga (pen.)
PENALTY SHOOTOUT: Van der Hijden (A) post, Cruz (I) goal, Suarez (A) goal, Balotelli (I) goal, De Jong (A) goal, Chivu (I) saved, Kennedy (A) wide, Burdisso (I) goal, Heitinga (A) post.
INTER (4-4-2): Alfonso – Rivas, Burdisso, Chivu, Maxwell – Pelé, Cambiasso, Solari, Siligardi (66’ Balotelli) – Cruz, Suazo (75’ Pedrelli) (bench: Orlandoni, Córdoba, J.Zanetti, Materazzi, Fatic, Jiménez, Cesar, Bolzoni, Crespo). Coach: Mancini.
AJAX (4-3-3): Stekelenburg – Ogararu, Heitinga, Maduro, Vertongehen (46’ Schilder, 54’ Van der Heijden) – Donald (46’ Rommedahl), Perez (46’ De Jong), Davids (33′ Emanuelson) – Kennedy, Huntelaar (46’ Leonardo), Suarez (bench: Gentenaar, Urzaiz, Luque, Colin) Coach: Koster.

Posted in Inter, Pre-season, World News |

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