Inter vs. Roma has sort of become like a Coppa Italia tradition in recent years. Since June 2005, these two teams have been contending the final of a competition which, at the cost of being snubbed by the big teams, has always served as the launching platform of many interesting youngsters and given rise to a variety of spectacular matches.
While it delivered on the former (keep an eye on Davide Santon —age 18, left full-back— in the coming years), despite a few “ooh” and “aah” moments Wednesday’s encounter probably won’t be remembered in the annals of the beautiful game. As was to be expected however, it was a tightly-contested affair between two bitter rivals, fighting to their dying breath until the very last minute of play. And as often been the case with the Nerazzurri this season, not without its moments of controversy.
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(From Gazzetta): They may still be somewhat shaky on the defensive end, but Inter’s approach to the match was nothing short of aggressive. Evidently, the José-Hurricane exploding after the Atalanta disaster created the desired effect: the Nerazzurri wanted immediately to wipe the slate clean. It should also be said that Roma gave their opponents a helping hand, leaving plenty of open spaces through their own mistakes.
Indeed Luciano Spalletti, lining up Mirko Vucinic alongside Julio Baptista (with Taddei covering Cicinho’s moves forward), was quite litterally let down by his defenders… all his defenders. A rarity, with Riise and Juan colliding like a couple of novices, Mexès trailing behind, and Cicinho sliding happily on the green grass. Adriano was left all the space he needed to score the 1-0 goal, and this after less than 10 minutes. 1-0 Inter.
Once again, as often the case in these Nerazzurri-Giallorossi Coppa encounters, the team conceding the goal immediately found the resources to fight back. Simone Perrotta had the first chance (squadering Cicinho’s good pass), then it was Matteo Brighi‘s turn, stopped by Toldo with a decisive save. One could even add Julio Baptista, who had a good opportunity on the volley but missed connecting with the ball. The biggest highlight for Roma of course, was when Vucinic received a long pass inside the area, fell down and in-so-doing spiked the ball into the net. No penalty, and yellow card for the intentional handball. Doubts remained.
Roma’s ascendancy was not constant however, as Inter managed to create another two clear chances in the first half alone. Artur, replacing Doni in the Roma net, could have got into trouble especially from the tricky interplay between Maicon (weaving cleverly through three Giallorossi defenders) and Stankovic (his turning right-footed volley hitting the crossbar). The Roma goalkeeper was excellent however, when Zlatan forced him to leap backwards and slam his chipped shot away. 1-0 at the half.
Roma landed the first blows of the second period, but Inter responded immediately. The goal for 1-1 was by Rodrigo Taddei (60th), a powerful right-footer resulting from a weaving run by Brighi inside the area. Oddly, the scorer should have been substituted just a few minutes earlier by Pizarro (who entered for Vucinic instead).
The tie only lasted for a few minutes however, because once again Zlatan Ibrahimovic “removed the chestnuts from the fire” (as they like to say in Italian). Making full use of his martial arts training, the Swedish striker connected with a loose ball with extraordinary coordination, and somehow sent the ball in the net to put his team in the lead again. 2-1 Inter, marred alas by the offside position of Walter Samuel at the start of play.
Some could say the goal evened out a non-penalty call for Inter a bit later (foul by Riise on Zlatan inside the box), but that would be stretching it. At the very least however, the Nerazzurri deserved their lead because the Swede could have increased his goal tally even more, through a great bicycle volley just wide off the mark earlier on.
The Giallorossi’s hunt for the equaliser was without much luck: Toldo saved on Pizarro’s diagonal effort with 20 minutes left, and Aquilani fired wide from inside the area. The pitch thus turned into a battlefield, with full-contact challenges like those between Ibrahimovic & Mexes and Perrotta & Cambiasso. No casualties fortunately.
In the end, the score remained 2-1 and Roma lost with their heads up high. Inter remain on track on three fronts, warding off the post-Atalanta clouds in the best possible way. On March 4, right in between the two UEFA Champions League matches against Manchester United, the Nerazzurri will play their Coppa Italia semi-final (first leg) against Sampdoria.
|GOALSCORERS: 10’ Adriano (I), 60’ Taddei (R), 62’ Ibrahimovic (I).
|INTER (4-3-1-2): Toldo – Maicon, Burdisso, Samuel, Santon – J.Zanetti, Cambiasso, Muntari (86’ Mancini) – Stankovic – Adriano (72’ Chivu), Ibrahimovic. (bench: Julio Cesar, Rivas, Figo, Quaresma, Balotelli). Coach: Mourinho.|
| ROMA (4-3-2-1): Artur – Cicinho, Mexes, Juan, Riise (70’ Menez) – Taddei (79’ Aquilani), De Rossi, Brighi – Perrotta, Baptista – Vucinic (59’ D.Pizarro). (bench: Bertagnoli, Cassetti, Loria, Greco). Coach: Spalletti.