Rarely does a Coppa Italia quarterfinal match feel like a must-win, but after faltering late against Milan and with Napoli next, Inter needed a win to bring some reassurance to the club and the fans. Though it was ugly at times, Inter pulled out a clean sheet and two goals to spoil Jose Mourinho’s return to the San Siro.
Inter started with a strong side that did feature some rotation, dropping Lautaro Martinez, Hakan Calhanoglu, Denzel Dumfries, and Stefan de Vrij from the loss to Milan for the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, Matteo Darmian, and Danilo D’Ambrosio. A lineup no doubt constructed with the big league match against Napoli on Saturday in mind.
Mourinho only made two changes to his Roma side that drew disappointingly with Genoa on the weekend, bringing in Jordan Veretout and Matias Vina over Bryan Cristante and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. With no European competition for the rest of the season, Roma could afford to put out the majority of their starters without much concern.
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Skriniar, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Vidal, Perisic; Dzeko, Sanchez.
ROMA (3-4-1-2): Rui Patricio; Mancini, Smalling, Ibanez; Karsdorp, Veretout, Oliveira, Viña; Mkhitaryan; Zaniolo, Abraham.
The match started just how Inter needed it to after the late disaster against Milan. Inside two minutes of the opening whistle, Ivan Perisic found space on the left for a pinpoint cross in to Edin Dzeko who scored again against his former team with a brilliant volley past Rui Patricio.
Less than two minutes in and Edin Dzeko with a supreme finish. pic.twitter.com/hRcxRvzQrV— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) February 8, 2022
Just a few minutes later, Nicolo Barella threatened to make it a 2-0 Inter lead as he picked the ball up a mile from goal and dialed in a rocked that thumped off of Patricio’s crossbar. If Barella’a shots were just a few inches lower, he could have at least three more goals on his season tally.
The Inter surge did not stop there. Alexis Sanchez took a free kick on the edge of the area shortly after the Barella chance, finding the head of Milan Skriniar who headed straight at Patricio. The Nerazzurri picked the ball back up after Roma’s clearance and almost immediately had the same chance from a cross on the opposite side of the box, where Perisic found the head of Dzeko in nearly the exact same spot for another Patricio save. An early push after the frustration of the weekend could have easily brought two or three more goals before the 10 minute mark in this one.
Around 10 minutes later, Roma got their first chance on goal as Tammy Abraham played Nicolo Zaniolo in on goal, but the former Inter Primavera man put his shot straight onto Handanovic, who came out to make the save.
With the half going nearly perfectly, Inter were faced with a disappointing injury just before the halftime whistle. Alessandro Bastoni went up for a header against Zaniolo, who just knocked him off on his landing. The tall defender came down awkwardly on his ankle and immediately called for the training staff. Inter’s number 95 left the pitch in tears, barely able to put pressure on his right ankle. Not the ending to the half anyone wanted.
Bastoni was replaced by de Vrij just before the second half whistle. To start the second period of play, Mourinho brought on Marash Kumbulla in the place of Roger Ibanez in defense.
Not much happened in the early parts of the half. Inter seemed to be conserving energy while Roma struggled to find clear chances. The visitors came close just after the hour mark through new signing Sergio Oliveira, as the former Porto man’s shot from distance took a wicked deflection off of Marcelo Brozovic and forced an awkward save out of Samir Handanovic. Inter answered with a long-range shot of their own through Barella, who got his effort below the bar this time, but kept out of the new by a nice save from Patricio.
Minutes later, another chance from long-distance found the back of the net from Alexis, who channeled his Arsenal days to put a thunderous effort into the top corner that no keeper on the planet could stop to deliver the second goal Inter needed to really kill the match off.
ALEXIS SANCHEZ LOVES A CUP COMPETITON. pic.twitter.com/yAozlmLVwL— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) February 8, 2022
The final 25 or so minutes featured substitutions for both sides and a couple of half chances for Lautaro Perisic. The match was blown to a close on an entertaining note just as Calhanoglu pulled off a very slick skill against Gianluca Mancini that looked great even though it meant nothing, booking Inter a place in the Coppa Italia semifinal against either Milan or Lazio.
Handanovic - 5.5: Not much to do but did look a little shaky at times when he needed to come off of his line, including an offside play that ended with an acrobatic goal line clearance. Did keep a clean sheet for the first time since the draw with Atalanta and did well to make the save on the Oliveira deflected shot.
Bastoni - 6: Was playing well until his unfortunate injury. Hoping for the best.
Skriniar- 7 (MOTM): Inzaghi deployed him at the center of the back three but had to move him to the unfamiliar left after the Bastoni injury. He dominated everywhere he went outside of one misstep against Abraham. The goal line clearance on the offside play was beautiful, and his celebration of it was the stuff of defending legends.
D’Ambrosio - 6.5: He may be asked to do a lot in the coming weeks with the Bastoni suspension and injury. Showed he was up to the task if needed. Great performance.
Perisic - 7: The cross to Dzeko was a work of art and the rest of his match was virtually flawless. This high level has become to be expected of him this season. If he does leave at the end of the season, he will be missed despite the arrival of Robin Gosens.
Vidal - 6: Pretty quiet and lost possession a few times, but worked hard in the center of the pitch. Can’t complain about this performance from a backup but he seems to be falling off a bit as the season wears on.
Brozovic - 6.5: Was rash in his tackling quite often but kept things ticking on the ball as usual. Could have used a substitution for a breather towards the end of the match.
Barella - 6.5: Hopefully a sign of things to come for the Italian midfielder, putting in great shots from distance and doing his thing all over the pitch. Very good performance.
Darmian - 6: Still looking rusty after losing his starting spot to Denzel Dumfries, but can always get into good positions as a great reader of the game. His contributions will be needed in the coming weeks, so this was a good sign of life from him.
Alexis - 7: A pretty middling performance before he decided to belt in that ridiculous goal. That’ll bump his rating up but he is still losing the ball when he comes deep at an annoying rate.
Dzeko - 6.5: Scored his obligatory goal against Roma but didn’t do much else after. Still good to see him get on the scoresheet when Inter need more production up front.
de Vrij - 6.5: Replaced Bastoni and did well on short notice. A good bounce back performance for him after the derby.
Lautaro - 6: He looks to be in another goalscoring drought, which is not good at this moment. Hopefully, he finds the net soon in this important stretch of matches.
Calhanoglu/Vecino/Dumfries - N/A
Inzaghi - 6.5: Looks like he was able to calm everything down behind the scenes after the derby. Picked a good team and make his subs at the right time. Lesson learned for him, hopefully.
Inter will be back at it on Saturday, heading southbound to face Luciano Spaletti’s Napoli in another potentially season-defining match. Getting the win against Roma was huge with this match coming up, especially since Inzaghi will be banned from the touchline in Naples because of his conduct at the end of the derby. Hopefully, he can figure out the backline issue in training with Bastoni out for at least the next two matches because of his own league suspension and now apparent injury. This squad has proved that they can respond well to adversity multiple times this season, let us hope they can do it again this weekend in a big spot.