Inter 1-1 Roma (Agg 2-1) Coppa Italia Semi Final 2nd Leg
Inter will travel to the Stadio Olimpico on 29 May to contend the Coppa Italia final with Palermo. If Stankovic was the man who hit the winner in the first leg, this evening it was Eto’o who got the ultimately decisive goal. The 1-1 return-leg draw means the Nerazzurri reach the Coppa Italia final for the sixth time in seven seasons, on the night captain Zanetti made his 1000th career appearance.
The first half ended goalless despite several chances for both sides, Maicon and Pazzini for Inter and De Rossi and Borriello for the visitors. In the second half the Cameroon striker showed his class once more with a well-placed shot that sent the Meazza wild. Borriello headed in an equaliser for Roma with six minutes of normal time remaining but Inter held on to go through 2-1 on aggregate.
FIRST HALF –
Missing both Sneijder and Stankovic (scorer of the match-winning goal in the first leg at the Stadio Olimpico), Leonardo fielded Zanetti alongside Kharja and Eto’o in the attacking trio behind Pazzini. Cambiasso and Mariga provided the protection in front of the Nerazzurri defence, which had Lucio and Chivu in the centre flanked by Maicon and Nagatomo.
Tonight’s game at the Meazza was a special moment for Javier Zanetti as he made his 1000th professional appearance, joining an elite group – with just nine other footballers – to have reached such a milestone. Pupi wore an armband made just for the occasion, and before kick-off Inter technical director presented the skipper with a commemorative silver plate, to the thunderous applause of the whole stadium.
Inter started the game brightly and threatened early on through Maicon and then Pazzini, but Roma had the first real chance ten minutes in: Borriello made his way into a decent position before firing a venomous shot fractionally over. Two minutes later Eto’o had a pop at goal but he also failed to hit the target. Back down the other end, some neat interplay from the Giallorossi culminated in De Rossi curling wide, and the Roma captain tried his luck from range in the 19th minute, shooting mere inches wide of Julio Cesar’s right-hand upright. On 26 minutes, a floated ball from Mariga towards Pazzini in a central position proved just too high for the striker to get enough contact. Nagatomo then made an important interception in the 39th minute as Menez was bursting towards goal. A minute’s added time ended a fairly intense first half, played at pace and with several chances but little precision and no goals.
SECOND HALF –
Montella made a change during the interval and Greco came out in place of Pizarro. Six minutes after the restart the substitute whipped a dangerous free kick into the box that missed De Rossi’s head by a whisker and ended up in the arms of a grateful Julio Cesar. The deadlock was finally broken just before the hour mark, and it was a clinical finish from the ever-impressive Samuel Eto’o. Mariga started the move by chipping into the box, before the ball then found its way to Kharja on the right; his cross was knocked clear via Perrotta’s hand (which should have been a penalty to Inter), but only as far as the Cameroon striker, who took one touch to control the ball before slotting neatly through the legs of a defender and low into the far corner – his 34th goal of the season.
Inter had a great chance to go two up in the 66th minute, when Pazzini wriggled his way past Juan and Riise only to see Doni show great reflexes and push his effort wide. Two minutes passed and it was Julio Cesar who came to Inter’s rescue with a splendid save from Borriello. Having replaced Pazzini, Milito tried his luck in the 72nd minute: after striding into the box he did brilliantly to shake off his man but couldn’t get enough power on his shot and Doni blocked with his feet.
Roma’s best chance of the match came on 76 minutes, and it must be said that luck was not shining on them: Borriello fired past Julio Cesar and onto the near post, with the ball then ricocheting onto the opposite upright and out. Eto’o tried to put the game to bed with around ten minutes remaining, his curling right-footed effort flying just over. Two minutes later Cassetti caused problems for Julio Cesar but the keeper managed to gather the ball at the second attempt.
With six minutes to go, Roma drew level on the night through Borriello, who rose well at the far post to head in Perrotta’s cross. Inter suddenly found themselves hanging on, since another goal by the Giallorossi would have put them through on away goals, but as the game entered stoppage time it was the Nerazzurri who should have been given the chance to wrap things up from the spot: Juan clearly brought Milito down with a raised foot in an attempted sliding tackle, but the referee decided not to award a penalty.
After three minutes of stoppage time, and with a few frayed nerves on the pitch – ex-Inter player Burdisso in particular – the match ended 1-1. The Nerazzurri qualify for the final with a 2-1 aggregate score.
Inter 1-1 Roma (HT: 0-0; AGG: 2-1)
Scorers: Eto’o 58, Borriello 84.
Referee: Daniel Orsato (Schio).
Booked: Chivu 67, Maicon 87, Perrotta 89, Burdisso 90.
Added time: 1+3 minutes.
1 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 6 Lucio, 26 Chivu, 55 Nagatomo; 19 Cambiasso, 17 Mariga; 4 Zanetti, 14 Kharja (Motta 75), 9 Eto’o; 7 Pazzini (Milito 67).
Unused subs: 12 Castellazzi, 20 Obi, 23 Materazzi, 27 Pandev, 29 Coutinho.
Unused subs: 1 Lobont, 3 Castellini, 15 Loria, 87 Rosi.
Coach: Vincenzo Montella.
The end of the match was thrilling, but, as he explained, “it’s normal to suffer in the final moments of a semi-final. We’re pleased to have made it to the final against Palermo; it’s a well-deserved final after so much work.”
Talk inevitably turned to the Gattuso case: “I’m sorry to be involved in controversy. In my statement I asked two questions, but Gattuso hasn’t responded and I don’t believe the response I read from AC Milan deserves any comment. I prefer silence, everyone has their own style.”
The conversation then shifted back to the match against Roma and goal-hero Eto’o: “He’s an incredible player, universal, and he’s shown it throughout the season, not just tonight. His season has been truly exceptional, with 35 goals. He’s shown maximum commitment, as has the team. I’m satisfied; there have been months of sacrifice, and this season tops off a difficult but positive season.”
Finally, a nod to Massimo Moratti, who had spoken before the match of Leonardo as one of the certainties for Inter’s future: “I will always try to have a good relationship with president Moratti, like the clear one that exists. We made this choice together and I’ve never had any doubts, even in difficult times. In those times my relationship with Moratti has been even stronger and clearer. Of course it’s obvious that the relationship between a president and coach is always subject to passion and results. But I want to always have this great relationship with him that has been created.”
With a few words he brushed off the tension on the pitch sparked off by Nicolas Burdisso (“These things happen, now it’s all over.”) and the behavior of Gennaro Gattuso during the Scudetto celebrations (“Honestly, nothing surprises me.”), then Zanetti gave an opinion on Inter’s season: “It’s been quite positive; we started by winning the Italian Super Cup, continued by winning the Club World Cup, and now finishing with the Coppa Italia would really be beautiful.”
The skipper later spoke to Inter Channel: “A special game but also a difficult one. We really wanted to win it and I think we deserved to go through to play Palermo in the final. We were unable to wrap the tie up early, but we knew Roma would come back strong looking for goals. We defended well.”
Asked if he has memories of playing any bad games, Zanetti replied: “Yes, there have been lots, but the main thing is being able to reach this goal, which you can only do if you’re very, very consistent.”
“I’m trying to play the role of playmaker the best I can and I hope to be useful to the team, like tonight,” stated Houssine Kharja following Inter v Roma, a match that saw the Nerazzurri through to the final.
The Inter midfielder added: “I have tremendous regard for Leonardo. I have to thank him, because he has faith in me and helps me so much.”
“I was prepared. I knew that tonight I would have to play a match that was more defensive than usual, but we had trained for this.” Yuto Nagatomo spoke to Japanese reporters about his Coppa Italia semi-final match, which saw Inter advance to play Palermo on May 29th. The Rosanero will be there – not Milan. The Japanese full-back continued: “Honestly, I expected to face the Rossoneri. I was also hoping a little bit for a chance at revenge. However, now we’ll face Palermo and we’ll have to think only of that match. It will be my first final in Italy and to win it in my first year with this team would also be a source of great personal satisfaction for me. I’ll be able to finish out a season that I never expected would be at such a high level. But I play for Inter and the objective of this team is always to win.”
Finally, Nagatomo spoke of the milestone reached by Javier Zanetti this evening as he made his 1,000th appearance: “I have a special relationship with him. We room together and he always gives me valuable advice. He’s very important for me, but actually he’s very important for our entire team.”