STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA (Milan): The massive Stadio Giuseppe Meazza roar that accompanied the referee’s final whistle wasn’t simply due to Inter’s 1-0 victory over Juventus which sealed a second consecutive Coppa Italia final for Simone Inzaghi‘s outfit, it was a cry of encouragement to a Nerazzurri side who have a season-defining set of games coming up in May.
Federico Dimarco’s first-half goal was enough to see off a poor Bianconeri side that looked unprepared to play a different game from their usual script of defending and punishing their opponents with minimal effort.
The fourth Derby d’Italia of the season came with a series of stories that made the occasion even more exciting – both Inter and Juventus had the chance to get a ticket for the final act of the competition in Rome, where they faced off last season with the Nerazzurri securing a 4-2 win after extra-time to get their hands on Inzaghi’s second piece of Inter silverware.
Furthermore, fate wanted their semi-final’s second leg to be played on April 26, a date that recalls one of the most heated moments of this rivalry. The Nerazzurri fans still remember the infamous penalty claim for a controversial Mark Iuliano challenge on Ronaldo exactly 25 years ago, in a game that saw Juve eventually win 1-0 to go on to win the Scudetto over second-placed Inter.
Juventus had no answer to Inter’s brave approach
All of this added to an already electric atmosphere of a packed Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, and while both sides needed to score to go through after their 1-1 draw in the first-leg, Massimiliano Allegri’s conservative choices, with Angel Di Maria and Federico Chiesa deployed as their only forwards, were very telling of his side’s game plan.
On the other side, however, Inter looked eager to start strong in front of their roaring fans, and their opener on the 15-minute mark seemed the logical consequence of the two sides’ approach to the game.
A smart through ball from Nicolò Barella found Dimarco unmarked inside the box, and a swift touch from the Inter academy graduate was enough to beat Mattia Perin and put the hosts deservedly ahead.
Di Maria was the only player to show glimpses of inspiration from the visitors, but with little support from his teammates. Inter looked to exploit the overlaps from Matteo Darmian and Alessandro Bastoni in order to provide a width that Juve struggled to cover, although their repeated crosses were somehow dealt with by the visitors.
Allegri’s changes not enough to hurt Inter
Massimiliano Allegri couldn’t help but make some tweaks at the end of a poor half from his side, as he decided to bring on Arkadiusz Milik in an attempt to light an offensive spark that had been completely lacking in the opening 45 minutes.
In the absence of a killing blow from the Nerazzurri, Juve could still hope in a moment to bring things level but they continued to pose too little threat to Andre Onana’s goal and had Perin to thank for making a miraculous save on Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s rocket after 70 minutes that kept the contest open.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Onana’s quiet shift between the posts included as few as a couple of easy blocks, with none of the Bianconeri’s substitutes, from Leandro Paredes to Paul Pogba, looking able to inspire their side. The Nerazzurri’s goalkeeper eventually came out to prevent Chiesa from picking up a brilliant through ball from Di Maria, sealing a deserved first win of the season from Inter over their rivals, as well as a pass for the Coppa Italia final against either Fiorentina or Cremonese.