ROME - Inter have won the 2010/11 Coppa Italia by beating Palermo 3-1 in this evening's final.
A completely sold-out Stadio Olimpico hosted two sides who had never met before in the final to determine the winner of the 63rd edition of the Coppa Italia. Eto'o gave Inter the lead with a cool finish in the 26th minute, following Sneijder's perfectly weighted through ball. In the 76th minute, precisely the same combination sent the Nerazzurri fans wild with joy, as Inter placed a firm grasp on the cup. An eventful finale awaited, though, as Munoz pulled one back for Palermo on 88 minutes, before Milito stroked home two minutes into added time to seal the win. The Nerazzurri now have a seventh Coppa Italia to add to their trophy cabinet, and can count 15 trophies won in the last 7 years.
FIRST HALF – Leonardo had to make do without Maicon (suspended) and Cambiasso (injured) but was able to select Ranocchia, who recovered from flu to partner Lucio at the heart of defence, and Sneijder, who nestled in behind Eto'o and Pazzini. Kharja and Milito started from the bench.
It wasn't long after the Inno di Mameli (Italian national anthem) and Morganti's opening whistle that Palermo created the first chance of the game, Ilicic setting up Hernandez and the Uruguayan firing into the side netting with 2 minutes on the clock. The opening period saw the Sicilians throwing their weight around a bit: Hernandez elbowed Sneijder, Goian crunched into Pazzini from behind and Balzaretti fouled Lucio on the edge of the box, all within the first quarter of an hour.
On 15 minutes Stankovic played a long ball over the top looking for Pazzini, who held off the challenges of Goian and Munoz as he attempted bring the ball down, but it ran into Sirigu's arms.
In the 19th minute, Julio Cesar was alert to dive at the feet of Pastore as the Palermo playmaker raced into the box after playing a one-two with Ilicic. The Argentinian tried his luck again a minute later, after another exchange with Ilicic, but lifted his effort over the bar.
Goian asked to come off midway through the half and on came Carrozzieri, making his first appearance of the season after completing a two-year drugs ban.
The Olimpico exploded in the 26th minute when Inter took the lead: Thiago Motta won the ball while being brought down by Hernandez; Sneijder picked it up and, seeing Eto'o's run, slid a delightful pass in behind the defence for Samuel to latch onto, bear down on goal and sidefoot past Sirigu into the far corner. The Cameroon striker raised his hand to his chest after notching up his 36th goal of the season and repeated with Materazzi the same celebration seen in the Club World Cup final.
Five minutes later, Palermo almost found an equaliser when, following Hernandez's cross to Balzaretti and a scramble in the box, Hernandez's deflected shot was kept out by Julio Cesar with a stunning reflex save.
Ilicic made a dangerous run into the box on 41 minutes, only to flop to the ground after an alleged foul by Ranocchia that rightly wasn't given.
The last action of the half saw Hernandez's central shot saved comfortably by Julio Cesar, so after 46 minutes played the half-time scoreline was Inter 1-0 Palermo.
SECOND HALF – The second half began with Julio Cesar keeping out an effort from Balzaretti, then Chivu made a crucial interception as Hernandez was heading for goal in the 49th minute.
Julio Cesar was called into action again soon after, getting up above everyone to claim the ball following Ilicic's free kick; he then made another timely intervention to pluck the ball away from Hernandez (52nd), with Lucio guarding the goal line.
Miccoli replaced Acquah on 55 minutes and it took the substitute just five minutes to make his presence felt: connecting with Pastore's cross, he nodded towards the far corner, only for an alert Brazilian keeper to fly through the air and turn the ball round the post with a great save.
Pazzini made way for Pandev on the hour mark, with Eto'o moved forward to play as the side's spearhead.
Another scramble inside the Nerazzurri box saw Palermo go close again, but after a series of rebounds Lucio cleared with an overhead kick.
After 67 minutes, a contrast between Chivu and Hernandez in the box led to more protests from the Sicilians, but the Romanian had clearly won the ball.
Inter went close in the 75th minute as Eto'o laid off for Sneijder, but the playmaker failed to connect. However, just a minute passed and the Nerazzurri extended their lead: Pandev won the ball with a little luck and fed Sneijder, who released Eto'o once more and the Cameroonian striker entered the box and slotted into the far corner with another display of clinical finishing. The Olimpico went wild as the cup edged ever closer.
Inter might have gone three up in the 86th minute, when Sneijder curled a lovely shot towards the top corner, yet it was matched by a top-drawer save from Sirigu. And Palermo's hopes were restored two minutes later when Munoz headed past Julio Cesar from Miccoli's corner, which in fact shouldn't have been given – Morganti and his assistants failed to see that the ball had gone out of play before the corner was awarded.
Moments after celebrating his goal, Munoz's evening was ruined when he was shown a second yellow for bringing down Mariga on the edge of the box as the game entered stoppage time. Eto'o stepped up to take the free kick and struck the ball sweetly but it came back off the underside of the crossbar.
Yet almost immediately afterwards Milito did put the game to bed, turning home Pandev's pull-back just yards from goal to put the Nerazzurri 3-1 up.
After five minutes of stoppage time, Morganti blew the final whistle on the 2010/11 Coppa Italia final - Inter were the winners.
The president of the Italian Senate, Renato Schifani, handed over two trophies: the Coppa Italia to captain Zanetti and the cup to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification to Marco Materazzi.
Inter 3-1 Palermo (HT: 1-0)
Scorers: Eto'o 26 and 76, Munoz 88, Milito 90+2.
Inter: 1 Julio Cesar; 55 Nagatomo, 6 Lucio, 15 Ranocchia, 26 Chivu; 4 Zanetti, 8 Thiago Motta (17 Mariga, 82), 5 Stankovic; 10 Sneijder (22 Milito, 87); 7 Pazzini (27 Pandev, 61), 9 Eto'o.
Unused subs: 12 Castellazzi, 14 Kharja, 23 Materazzi, 25 Samuel.
Palermo: 46 Sirigu; 16 Cassani, 6 Munoz, 3 Goian (80 Carrozzieri, 69), 42 Balzaretti; 8 Migliaccio, 94 Acquah (10 Miccoli, 55), 23 Nocerino; 72 Ilicic, 27 Pastore; 9 Hernandez (51 Pinilla, 77).
Unused subs: 99 Benussi, 4 Kasami, 11 Liverani, 36 Darmian.
Coach: Delio Rossi.
Referee: Emidio Morganti (Ascoli Piceno).
Booked: Acquah 27, Munoz 53 and 90, Carrozzieri 68.
Sent off: Munoz 90.
Added time: 1+5 minutes.