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Coppa Italia: Big Four in the Last Four

So arguably Italy’s big four will contest the 2020 Coppa Italia last four.

We already knew that Juventus and Napoli, who knocked out holders Lazio, awaited the winners of this week’s remaining quarter-finals.

What we got was two contrasting ties in the San Siro, one which produced plenty of Coppa Italia highlights, and the other was a far more low-key yet no less tense affair.

However, both Milan sides eventually made it through as they bid to end an absence of silverware by their lofty standards.

Inter’s last trophy was this competition in 2011 when they were reigning European champions.

Aside from a Supercoppa success in 2016, Milan’s last triumph also came nine years ago when they were pick of the pops in Serie A.

How they both crave bringing major honours back to this football-mad city.

 

AC Milan winning on and off the field

As AC Milan welcomed Torino to town, there was more than football on their minds.

Both sides wore black armbands in tribute to late basketball great Kobe Bryant who lived in Italy for several years as a child and supported Milan.

A video displayed on the big screen at the San Siro before kick-off, showed photos and clips of Bryant and his 13 year-old daughter Gianna, who was among the seven other people who lost their lives in the crash.

Fans also applauded in the 24th minute as five-time NBA champion Bryant wore shirt number 24 for the Los Angeles Lakers.

When the football started, Torino – who are mid-table in Serie A – came within a whisker of causing a surprise.

Giacomo Bonaventura gave the hosts the lead before Brazilian defender Bremer’s double put Torino ahead.

It was deep in stoppage time when Hakan Calhanoglu rescued the hosts and he netted again in extra time before substitute Zlatan Ibrahomivic made sure of the victory by adding a fourth.

Milan have won five of the six games played since Ibrahimovic arrived – previously the Rossoneri achieved six wins in 17 games.

Milan now meet champions Juventus who slipped to a rare defeat at the weekend but remain tournament favourites with Coppa Italia.

The more astute SBOTOP followers among you will realise it was Milan who beat Juventus in a penalty shoot-out four years ago to win the Supercoppa.

 

Inter Milan seeking for glory anew

Nicolo Barella is ready to step up and help Inter Milan in lifting the 2020 Coppa Italia trophy
Inter Milan’s Nicolo Barella celebrates after scoring a goal during the Coppa Italia quester finals match against Fiorentina

The team who beat Juve at the weekend, Napoli, lie in wait for Inter Milan.

Their success over Fiorentina was hard-earned. But in the end, the quality told.

At one point looking at the team-sheet, I had to remind myself it was I Nerazzurri and not Manchester United in the famous blue and black stripes.

On-loan Alexis Sanchez was named in the starting line-up alongside new recruit Ashley Young and last summer’s big money signing Romelu Lukaku.

Indeed, there was a definitive Premier League-look about them with new signing Christian Eriksen on the bench just days after his €20-M transfer from Tottenham Hotspur, along with Chelsea acquisition Victor Moses.

Manager Antonio Conte is quickly developing a reputation for complaining yet has been backed extremely well in the transfer market since his appointment last summer.

Inter needed a pick-me-up after dropping more points at the weekend and got it just before the break when Antonio Candreva pounced on a defensive error.

The deadlock was broken with a well-worked team move and a series of quick passes. But Federico Ceccherini and goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano got into a muddle trying to defend from Lautaro Martinez, so Candreva tapped in the loose ball.

It naturally deflated spirited Fiorentina but they kept going and were rewarded on the hour when Martin Caceres climbed above Martinez and headed home an equaliser with their first effort on target.

By then, they could have been out of sight as a Sanchez volley skimmed the post before Martinez skimmed the crossbar.

Pietro Terracciano also had to palm a Matias Vecino header off the line from Young’s cross.

It could have been a quick turnaround for Viola had Samir Handanovic not rushed off his line to block Dusan Vlahovic when played clean through.

Sanchez was soon replaced by Eriksen but it was an Italian home-grown player who restored the home side’s lead as Nicolo Barella, on-loan from Cagliari, rifled a scorching volley into the bottom corner.

It was to prove the decisive moment.

Candreva and Lukaku are the only Inter footballers to have scored in each of their three competitions played in the current season.

One suspects they will need both if they are to end that silverware drought in the final months of the campaign.

 

 

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