MILAN - A ball’s trajectory can go many ways. Wayward, precise or simply perfect. This was certainly the case tonight. During the first half on Tuesday, Ibrahimovic executed a fierce strike that crashed in off the post. Meanwhile, Lukaku then stepped up to angle home his spot-kick in the second half, which deflected in off the woodwork. However, surpassing both was a sumptuous, inch-perfect, floated free-kick from Christian Eriksen. A delightful 97th-minute winner to seal a nerve-wracking Derby, securing the bragging rights for the Blue and Black half of the city.
Inter triumphed 2-1 over AC Milan at San Siro, with the victory taking them through to the Coppa Italia semi-final. It was a finely poised encounter, yet one ultimately sealed thanks to Eriksen’s late winner. Either Juventus or SPAL will face the Nerazzurri in the next round.
Due to the high-stakes nature of the match, both sides were unsurprisingly competitive early on, stepping on the accelerator despite the lack of fans. The first chance fell to the Rossoneri in just the second minute, as Leao struck an effort that went just wide. Milan’s positive wing play was soon matched by the Nerazzurri, as Perisic proved an electric threat down the left.
Lukaku’s first attempt at testing Tatarusanu came in the 24th minute, as he spun brilliantly on his left to force a low save from the Milan shot-stopper. This was the first real sign of Inter gaining an increased foothold in the game and a goal seemed to be on the horizon, particularly as Sanchez was inspiring intricate combinations up top.
However, it was Milan that took the lead against the run of play in the 31st minute, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic once again finding the back of the net. On this occasion, the Swede struck a right-footed effort that snuck in off the post.
This goal didn’t set the Nerazzurri back, and it was then Sanchez who very nearly levelled the scoring with a header just minutes later. The chance stemmed from yet another cross from Perisic, with interventions from Romagnoli and Tomori keeping Inter at bay. Tempers flared just before the break after a clash between Romagnoli and Lukaku sparked input from Ibrahimovic, who was subsequently booked alongside Big Rom. Amid the chaos, a right-footed attempt from Brozovic flew just wide.
After the restart, Inter began to pile on the pressure. With Milan failing to come out of their shell, the Nerazzurri continued to work steadily, also boosted by Hakimi’s running down the wing. Sanchez came close to scoring again prior to the moment that firmly tipped the balance in Inter’s favour: in the 58th minute, Ibrahimovic brought down Kolarov in midfield and was shown a second yellow card, leaving Milan down to ten men.
With the Nerazzurri coming forward in droves, they finally scored an equaliser with 71 minutes on the clock. After Leao had brought down Barella and a subsequent VAR check had taken place, Valeri pointed to the penalty spot. Lukaku stepped up and fired into the net via the underside of the bar.
Conte’s men went in search of a winner, although their momentum was stalled somewhat by an injury to the referee, who was forced to leave the pitch. He was replaced by fourth official Chiffi. After a break lasting almost ten minutes, play resumed and Inter camped in the opposition half, eager to avoid extra time. Hakimi, Lautaro and Lukaku all had chances, but Tatarusanu continued to come to the rescue for the away side.
And just when it looked like an extra 30 minutes would be required, Eriksen scored a sumptuous free kick, a true gem that finished in the top corner and left Tatarusanu with no chance. It left Milan beaten and secured Inter’s place in the Coppa Italia semi-finals. Forza Inter!
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 37 Skriniar, 6 de Vrij, 11 Kolarov (15 Young 92'); 36 Darmian, 23 Barella, 77 Brozovic (24 Eriksen 89'), 22 Vidal, 14 Perisic (10 Lautaro 67'); 9 Lukaku (2 Hakimi 46'), 7 Sanchez.
Substitutes: 27 Padelli, 97 Radu, 5 Gagliardini, 12 Sensi, 13 Ranocchia, 15 Young, 95 Bastoni, 99 Pinamonti.
Coach: Antonio Conte.
AC MILAN (4-2-3-1): 1 Tatarusanu; 5 Dalot, 24 Kjaer (23 Tomori 20'), 13 Romagnoli, 19 Hernandez; 18 Meite, 79 Kessie; 56 Saelemakers (7 Castillejo 85'), 21 Diaz, 17 Leao (33 Krunic 85'); 11 Ibrahimovic (12 Rebic 60').
Substitutes: 90 A. Donnarumma, 96 Jungdal, 2 Calabria, 15 Hauge, 20 Kalulu, 27 Maldini.
Coach: Stefano Pioli.
Goalscorers: 31' Ibrahimovic (M), 71' Lukaku (I) pen., 97' Eriksen (I)
Bookings: Kjaer (M), Lukaku (I), Brozovic (I), Rebic (M), Hakimi (I)
Red card: 58' Ibrahimovic (M) for two yellow cards
Added time: 1' - 10'.
Assistants: Del Giovane, Colarossi.
Fourth official: Chiffi.
VAR assistant: Paganessi.