Events off the pitch in Italian football are becoming an increasing concern after Juventus‘ points deduction, yet Tuesday evening’s Coppa Italia quarter-final between Inter and Atalanta proved a welcome distraction.
The 1-0 victory for Inter was enough to send them to the semi-final, although their goal came through a rather unlikely source.
Matteo Darmian, formerly of Manchester United, was shuffled into the starting XI as a right-sided central defender, but he found the decisive goal just before the hour.
Atalanta couldn’t find their usual attacking spark
Goals have been the formula for Atalanta‘s recent success under Gian Piero Gasperini, yet they were stifled by Inter’s defensive work.
Despite knowing that Milan Skriniar would be leaving the club in the summer after agreeing a free transfer with Paris Saint-Germain, the defensive structure for the hosts was solid.
Hakan Calhanoglu provided the best moment of the first-half, firing a shot from distance and it rattled the right-hand post.
There was very little goalmouth action until just after the break, and this came through Lautaro Martinez.
The Argentine forward was through on goal when he felt he was fouled inside the penalty area, but the official said there wasn’t enough to award a spot-kick.
Atalanta missed a golden chance to take the lead just before Inter and Darmian scored.
Joakim Maehle was in the right place at the right time when a rebound fell to him just yards out, but he somehow managed to send his shot high above the crossbar.
Darmian controlled a pass on the edge of the penalty area after some fine work from Martinez, and the Italian defender smashed an instinctive rocket into the bottom corner of the net.
It was a moment of pure magic from the defender and it was enough to hand Inter a semi-final place, which should prove some comfort to a club that is having their own off-pitch struggles in 2023.
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