STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome): Lautaro Martinez was “simply the best” player on the pitch, as the late Tina Turner’s arguably most famous song line reads, and it was mostly thanks to him that Inter could celebrate their second consecutive Coppa Italia title after beating Fiorentina 2-1 in a tight final in Rome on a balmy May evening.
The World Cup winner scored twice in the first half to help the Nerazzurri come back from behind after Nico Gonzalez’s early opener seemed to have appeared as though it might pave the way for a fourth different Coppa Italia winner in as many seasons.
As the scoreline itself and the succession of the goals suggest, the Nerazzurri had to perform an extremely complicated task to come out on top against an excellent Fiorentina side that was probably punished too harshly after a brave performance.
Although both Inter and Fiorentina will have the chance to compete for European silverware in early June, the spectacular choreographies put on by their fans before the match were a further reminder that the Coppa Italia final was also a huge occasion to embellish their rollercoaster domestic season.
Fiorentina’s strong start tamed by clinical Inter
Both sides looked eager to show their intentions in the opening stages, but it was Fiorentina’s aggressiveness that was immediately rewarded as a Dodo tackle on Lautaro Martinez gave Giacomo Bonaventura space and time to find Jonathan Ikone on the left, whose cross was met with perfect timing by Nico Gonzalez at the far post to put the Viola ahead less than three minutes into the game.
The Nerazzurri responded by confidently relying on their trademark build-up to find gaps, and as much as it was risky, Vincenzo Italiano’s side seemed aware that intense pressure was arguably the most effective way to hurt their opponents.
While Fiorentina seemed able to trouble Inter’s defensive block more than usual, Sofyan Amrabat’s attempt was too meek to trouble Samir Handanovic from the edge of the box and that chance, after 12 minutes, marked the end of a difficult start for the Biscione, who gradually started to regain ground and create chances on their own.
The first of them was massive and was blatantly wasted by Edin Dzeko, who was set up by Martinez only to blaze the ball over the bar in front of Pietro Terracciano.
The game was lively and with both teams attacking, another goal looked inevitable. It was Inter who got it, once again giving proof of their wide array of offensive solutions, with Marcelo Brozovic carrying the ball through the Viola’s half before playing a vertical through pass to Martinez, who was clinical to beat Terracciano to bring things level.
The Nerazzurri looked inspired by the equaliser and turned the match around by building on their good momentum when Nicolo Barella picked up a poor clearance and swept in a cross that Lautaro turned home with a spectacular volley for his 27th goal of the season.
Misfiring second half proved fatal for Fiorentina
Fueled by their vocal supporters, Fiorentina began the second-half eager to prove the contest was far from over, dangerously closing in on Handanovic’s goal but failing to hit the target.
As the tempo of the match remained high, Simone Inzaghi opted to bring in Romelu Lukaku even before the hour-mark, also replacing the booked Alessandro Bastoni with Stefan de Vrij, while Riccardo Sottil came on to replace Ikone for Fiorentina.
An attempt from Nico Gonzalez, which Handanovic parried with composure, and Cristiano Biraghi’s rocket from distance that flashed just over the crossbar were the main threats the Viola were able to produce, at least until substitute Luka Jovic eluded the marking of both Matteo Darmian and De Vrij with a single swift touch, only to see his shot stopped by a superb Handanovic.
Jovic was involved again shortly after and he should’ve done much better as he headed Dodo’s pinpoint cross wide, but the Viola missed another huge opportunity.
Gonzalez once again caused havoc down the right flank, dribbling his way past two defenders and eventually managing to chip a rebound over Handanovic with his head before the danger was cleared by the defence, securing Inter’s second straight Coppa Italia trophy.