Inter’s Coppa Italia title defense is still alive. But just barely. What seemed like a routine victory and confidence booster turned into anything but, with Serie B side Parma taking the Nerazzurri all the way to extra time in the first Round of 16 fixture. Lautaro Martinez saved the day for Inter with an equalizer in the 88th minute while Francesco Acerbi added to his highlight reel with a 110th-minute winner. Everything in between is better left undiscussed - the dreary play that began against Monza unfortunately isn’t looking like a short-term affliction.
Simone Inzaghi rang the changes after last week’s double-game slate, with rotation across almost the entire starting XI including rare starts for Kristjan Asllani and Robin Gosens. Parma, meanwhile, rolled out a mainly first-choice team with Gianluigi Buffon in goal.
Andre Onana was called into action early on, making a diving save on Franco Vazquez’s close-range effort after a wayward pass from Danilo D’Ambrosio. That set the tone for the rest of the match. Despite dominating possession Inter never looked anywhere near first gear and lost control all too often. The best chance of the half for the hosts came in the 23rd minute when Roberto Gagliardini whizzed a low effort just wide of the post from the top of the box. Other than that Parma’s box was vacant of action. The visitors then struck out of nowhere in the 38th minute through injury substitution Stanko Juric to take a shock lead.
STANKO JURIC SILENCES THE SAN SIRO WITH A ROCKET FOR PARMA. pic.twitter.com/XjOooMhwJA— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 10, 2023
By the time halftime rolled around Inter boasted an impressive possesion figure of 74% but only managed 2 shots, both off target, compared to Parma’s 3, all of which found Onana’s goal. In short, it was nowhere near good enough from Simone Inzaghi’s men.
The start of the second half didn’t bring about any change, much to the San Siro’s disappointment. Inzaghi went to his bench to bring on the likes of Edin Dzeko and Federico Dimarco, with Inter sending constant numbers toward Parma’s goal for the final twenty minutes. Clear-cut chances, however, still remained elusive but one moment of luck and skill was all it took for Lautaro Martinez to level proceedings at one in the 88th minute with Inter’s first shot on target of the night.
Lautaro Martinez scores in the 88th minute with Inter's first shot on target. pic.twitter.com/t7oIBwcvWN— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 10, 2023
Its second came soon after but this time Buffon was able to roll back the years and made an incredible reaction save on a close-range Dzeko shot.
Gianluigi Buffon making game-saving stops at 44-years-old.— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 10, 2023
You love to see it (unless you're an Inter fan ) pic.twitter.com/6v53BJTVSw
Despite Inter’s growing momentum throughout the second half, extra time reverted to a more balanced game flow. Both sides created half-chances but neither keeper was threatened too much. Then, in the 110th minute super sub Francesco Acerbi headed Inter into the quarter-finals, the goalscorer everyone predicted (and a nice throwback to Andrea Ranocchia’s acrobatic winner against Empoli in this stage one year ago).
Header from DEEP— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) January 10, 2023
Francesco Acerbi's first goal for Inter is a crucial one for the defending Coppa Italia champions. pic.twitter.com/2WjpP2SGAJ
Onana - 7: Made 5 saves but couldn’t do anything on Juric’s unsavable strike to the upper ninety.
Bastoni - 6.5: A solid outing from the Italian, who notched 99 touches, 4 duels won, 9 accurate long balls.
de Vrij - 6.5: Inter’s sterile possession meant de Vrij was a frequent conduit for the ball and he registered 142 touches and 113 passes (both 2nd most on Inter), but only one was a successful long ball, telling us more about how Inter played than de Vrij specifically.
D’Ambrosio - 6.5: Not his greatest showing but not too bad either from the veteran. Made 9 accurate long balls, won 4 duels and made 2 tackles.
Gosens - 6: Despite the chance to shine against weaker opposition, Gosens did nothing to displace Dimarco from the lineup. Went 0 for 4 on crosses and faded in and out of the game in attack.
Mkhitaryan - 6: Was fairly anonymous before an early exit on the hour mark. Managed 55 touches and an 86% passing rate but didn’t make much happen in the final third.
Asllani - 8: A very good showing from the young Albanian. Led Inter in touches (143) and accurate passes (115), won 4 duels and completed 16 long balls. Deserves more playing time for sure.
Gagliardini - 6: A typical Gagliardini performance with 12 duels won but a 78% passing accuracy. Unlucky not to score the opener in the first half which could have led to a very different game.
Dumfries - 6: Fared very similarly to his wingback partner Gosens. More running than anything of actual substance from the Dutchman.
Lautaro - 7.5: Two goals in two so far for El Toro in 2023. Wasn’t very active for the first 87 minutes but came up big when his opportunity came which is all you can ask of a striker. His possession play left a bit to be desired (a team-high 22 giveaways) but it’s the goal that counts.
Correa - 5: A complete non-factor. Managed just 42 touches and 0 shots against a Serie B defense. Money down the drain…
Inzaghi - 6.5: Probably expected a far more one-sided scoreline considering how many starters lined up in the XI but at least Inzaghi was proactive in his subs to change things up. Didn’t have many options with the lineup either to be fair - Lukaku, Barella, Calhanoglu, and Brozovic is quite the injury list.
Inter will play either Atalanta or Spezia (who play next Thursday) in the quarterfinals the week of January 31st. For now, though, the focus is on Saturday’s trip to Hellas Verona and the Super Coppa against Milan in a week’s time.