FLORENCE - So it will be a Derby. Inter will take on AC Milan in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals. It took 120 minutes plus additional time to overcome a courageous Fiorentina side in the round of 16. Progression into the next round was secured just one minute from time in a match which Conte’s side largely controlled, though they were made to pay with Fiorentina scoring from their first shot on target. Vidal’s goal from the spot was cancelled out by Kouame early in the second half. The Ivorian’s finish allowed the Viola to claw their way back into it, looking far more attacking than they had been prior to the goal. Inter worked hard and spurned a raft of chances to kill the game off before, at the very end, they could celebrate. Lukaku headed home from Barella’s cross in the 119th minute. As previously stated, it will be Inter vs. AC Milan in the final week of January.
The sun that bathed the Stadio Artemio Franchi was a spectator of a game that saw very little action in the opening half an hour. Both Prandelli and Conte were, during the warm-up, forced to amend their starting line-ups: Vidal and Bonaventura began the game in place of Sensi and Borja Valero, who had been named on their respective team sheets. Conte opted for a 3-5-2 and Ranocchia played in the heart of Inter’s back three, with Eriksen playing in a deeper role in midfield and Sanchez as a second striker in behind Lautaro. Kouame was the lone striker in Fiorentina’s 3-4-2-1 formation.
It wasn’t exactly an exciting game, though Inter did start the better of the two teams. The Nerazzurri were certainly more adventurous; Fiorentina ended the half with just one attempt on Handanovic’s goal. Conte’s side found some joy down the wings, with Young constantly offering himself on the overlap and providing for his teammates. Fiorentina couldn’t rein in Inter’s wide men but never looked in any real danger.
The game’s first moment of excitement came in the 37th minute: Eriksen’s shot was saved by Terracciano, who made a bit of a mess of it and couldn’t hold the ball. Sanchez got to the loose ball first but could only hit the post. Referee Massa initially waved play on but, after a signal from VAR, overturned the decision and awarded Inter a penalty for a foul on the Chilean by the Viola keeper. Vidal stepped up and converted the spot-kick (40’), his first-ever goal in an Inter shirt. Moments later, Inter risked conceding a penalty of their own as Massa adjudged Skriniar to have brought Kouame down in the box: the decision was reversed after an on-field review.
Inter’s mission after the break was to make that telling blow. Perisic found Lautaro in a bit of space in the box, El Toro turned sharply but, incredibly, put his effort wide from the edge of the six-yard box. Having come close to falling two behind, Fiorentina, boosted by a double substitution, began to show more courage and push further up the pitch. And, in the 57th minute, they levelled matters. With Inter having failed to properly clear their lines from a Viola corner, Kouame let fly with a thunderous effort from the edge of the box and scored his second of the season (his first also came against the Nerazzurri).
Having been pegged back, Conte’s men became more uncertain. Prandelli’s side, meanwhile, were finding more space to play in and successfully keeping the Nerazzurri at bay. The Viola’s transformation is reflected by stat in particular: they took one shot in the first half, while they had nine attempts after the restart. Inter were looking to take back control, with Hakimi’s introduction marking a shift in momentum. In the 80th minute, Sanchez failed to direct Perisic’s cross on target. It was a big chance against a Fiorentina side who, despite being subjected to Nerazzurri pressure, were continuing to hold their own, with Castrovilli and Bonaventura making a nuisance of themselves.
With neither side able to score a winner, the match went to extra time. Perisic, who was a constant thorn in Fiorentina’s side down the left flank, saw his cross deflected onto the bar. Then, a header from Sanchez was too close to Terracciano, who was able to keep the ball out. Inter were now fully in control and looking to find gaps in the Viola defence. Eriksen had a go, but Terracciano saved once more.
The Fiorentina goal was living a charmed life. Five minutes from the end, Terracciano produced some cat-like reflexes to stop Lukaku’s close-range header from finding the net. But just when it seemed like the Viola would take the Nerazzurri all the way to penalties, Nicolò Barella emerged down the right flank and delivered an exquisite cross for Lukaku, who, unmarked in the area, headed past the goalkeeper. 2-1 to Inter and a place in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals.
FIORENTINA (3-4-2-1): 1 Terracciano; 4 Milenkovic, 2 Martinez Quarta, 98 Igor; 22 Caceres (23 Venuti 53'), 10 Castrovilli, 34 Amrabat, 3 Biraghi; 5 Bonaventura, 92 Eysseric (9 Vlahovic 53'); 11 Kouame (77 Callejon 97').
Substitutes: 33 Brancolini, 69 Dragowski, 6 Borja Valero, 8 Duncan, 20 Pezzella, 27 Barreca, 28 Montiel, 29 Krastev, 32 Dalle Mura.
Coach: Cesare Prandelli.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar (6 de Vrij 61'), 13 Ranocchia, 11 Kolarov; 15 Young (2 Hakimi 69'), 5 Gagliardini (23 Barella 81'), 24 Eriksen, 22 Vidal (77 Brozovic 94'), 14 Perisic; 7 Sanchez, 10 Lautaro (9 Lukaku 69').
Substitutes: 27 Padelli, 97 Radu, 12 Sensi, 95 Bastoni.
Coach: Antonio Conte.
Goalscorers: 40' Vidal (I) pen., 57' Kouame (F), 119' Lukaku (I)
Bookings: Eysseric (F), Bonaventura (F), Skriniar (I), Kouame (F), Eriksen (I), Igor (F), Vidal (I), Hakimi (I), Ranocchia (I), Sanchez (I), Lukaku (I)
Added time: 3' - 2'; 1' - 2'.
Linesmen: Vecchi, Di Iorio.
Fourth Official: Prontera.
Assistant VAR: Costanzo.