MILAN - Inter dominated from start to finish on Monday against Cagliari, cruising through to the Coppa Italia quarter-finals thanks to an impressive 4-1 win. A brace from Lukaku played a key part in the emphatic victory in the round of 16, with Borja Valero and Ranocchia also getting themselves on the scoresheet. The winner of Atalanta vs. Fiorentina will now meet the Nerazzurri in the next round at San Siro, who tonight demonstrated consistency while also fielding as many players as possible from the squad.
The home side couldn’t have enjoyed a better start against the Rossoblu, with Lukaku responding perfectly to the San Siro’s’ support by firing the Nerazzurri in front after just 21 seconds. The strike capitalised well on a Oliva back-pass, smashing the ball past Olsen to score the quickest goal of the season so far. Conte’s side continued pressing soon after, enjoying periods of great play with Borja Valero and Alexis Sanchez both doing well in space when in the opposition’s final third. The latter was particularly impressive on his return to the team, back in action after an injury picked up on international duty.
Come the 12th minute, Lukaku found the back of the net once again but VAR ruled it out for a narrow offside. This was then followed by further chances for Dimarco and Sanchez, although it was Borja Valero who finally scored Inter’s second - which was also his second strike of the season. The goal stemmed from a right-sided cross whipped in by Barella, with the Spanish midfielder enjoying two bites of the cherry to tap home from close-range.
The first half was dominated by the Nerazzurri, who kept Cagliari comfortably at bay. Conte’s men could have actually gone into the break with a bigger lead as Lukaku and Brozovic both threatened to extend Inter’s advantage.
Inter remained focused at the task in hand after the break as they made it 3-0 in the 49th minute: Lukaku scored his 18th goal of the season following Lazaro’s quick corner. Having taken a three-goal lead, Inter dropped off slightly and were happy to keep hold of the ball without really making incursions into the Cagliari box. As for the away side, they showed pride in trying to get back into it, with Nainggolan striking the post with a venomous effort that had Handanovic beaten. Two minutes later, Oliva somewhat made amends for his mistake at the beginning of the game as finished off Cerri’s back-heeled assist with a great right-footed strike to reduce the arrears.
It was a goal that brought a bit of spirit to the visitors, who looked to catch Handanovic out from distance shortly afterwards. But their hopes were dashed in the 80th minute: Biraghi’s corner was met by Ranocchia, who headed home Inter’s fourth. This was a great moment for the central defender, who netted his first of the season and twelfth in a Nerazzurri shirt. The final stages saw Sensi and Esposito control proceedings as Inter comfortably saw the game out. Up next for Conte’s men in the competition will be either Atalanta or Fiorentina at San Siro. Now, it’s time to focus on the next one: at 15:00 CET on Sunday, a league fixture against Lecce awaits. Now and always, Forza Inter!