Inter defeated Roma 1-0 in the Coppa Italia final at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome on Wednesday night to keep their hopes of a historic treble alive. A wonderful Diego Milito strike five minutes before half-time was enough for the Serie A leaders to win the Italian Cup for the sixth time in their history. Roma had Francesco Totti sent off late in the second half.
Inter started as expected with Samuel Eto’o and Diego Milito as the front two and Wesley Sneijder in behind them. The Dutch international was supported by Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso and Thiago Motta from the midfield.
Roma coach Claudio Ranieri decided to keep captain Francesco Totti on the bench and commenced with Luca Toni as the lone striker instead in 4-2-3-1 formation that had Rodrigo Taddei, Simone Perrotta and Mirko Vucinic in the creative midfield department.
The match started on a bad note for Italian champions and current league leaders Inter as Sneijder got injured in a clash with Roma defender Nicolas Burdisso in the second minute. The former Real Madrid playmaker had to be substituted and was replaced by Mario Balotelli three minutes later but not before someone among the Stadio Olimpico crowd had flashed a green laser beam at Inter coach Jose Mourinho.
The Nerazzurri were put under some pressure on nine minutes when Burdisso crafted a great cross that Inter custodian Julio Cesar hesitated to collect. Vucinic took advantage and out-muscled Maicon but couldn’t keep his header on target.
In the 12th minute Roma goalkeeper Julio Sergio made a great save from Maicon. Cambiasso won the ball in midfield from Vucinic, sliced a pass to Eto’o, who charged into the Roma area and cut it back for Maicon, but the Brazilian international right-back’s shot was turned away brilliantly for a corner. From the resulting corner Thiago Motta leaped to head towards the Roma goal but his attempt went off target.
Roma had a penalty appeal on the quarter of an hour mark turned down when Toni went down under a challenge from Marco Materazzi. A couple of minutes later Milito scored for Inter when Eto’o dispossessed Daniele De Rossi and slid a pass to the Argentine international but the referee ruled it as offside.
There was end-to-end action and Julio Cesar was forced into making a good save in the 26th minute when Vucinic slid the ball through to Taddei and the Roma winger tried to find Toni across the face of the Nerazzurri goal but Inter shot-stopper intervened. A minute before the half hour mark Balotelli tried an ambitious attempt but it was comfortably saved by Julio Sergio.
Inter coach Jose Mourinho was forced into making another substitution in the first-half when Ivan Cordoba picked up a knock and was replaced by Walter Samuel in defense.
However, in the 40th minute the Beneamata surged ahead when Milito found the Roma net. The former Genoa striker was played through on goal as Philippe Mexes didn’t close him down quickly enough and the clinical striker found the Roma goal with a fiercely taken shot.
Tempers threatened to boil over in injury time when Materazzi went down under pressure from Mexes inside the Giallorossi penalty box. The referee eventually managed to calm things down and Inter went 1-0 up at the break.
Roma coach Claudio Ranieri brought on Francesco Totti and Marco Motta at the start of the second half and pulled out Claudio Pizarro and Nicolas Burdisso.
The move didn’t yield much in the first few moments but in the 54th minute the Giallorossi could have restored parity. Totti took an audacious attempt on the Inter goal from 30 yards that Julio Cesar parried out. The ball fell to Juan but the Roma defender’s header from close range went over the crossbar.
The match opened up after that as the Beneamata started to launch counter-attacks. Balotelli forced Julio Sergio into making a good save and moments later Vucinic volleyed the ball into the Inter goal but Toni had already been flagged offside.
Ranieri decided to make another change three minutes after the hour mark when he brought on Jeremy Menez in place of Toni. The Frenchman was in action right away when he and Taddei combined but Cambiasso cleared the ball away for a corner before Vucinic could get it.
Juan made a brilliant challenge on Maicon in the 65th minute as the Inter right-back was marching on towards the Giallorossi goal through the center. A minute later he was again called into action as he stopped Eto’o just as the Cameroonian international striker was about to pull the trigger from a few yards out.
Thereafter Roma started to enjoy more possession of the ball and forced Inter to sit back and soak the pressure. In the 77th minute the second-placed side in Serie A earned a free kick from a good range but John Arne Riise put it over the crossbar. The former Liverpool left-back then attempted a spectacular volley from distance but Julio Cesar made a good save.
Roma had another good chance in the 82nd minute when Motta burst forward and sent Vucinic through on goal but the Montenegrin could only hit the ball wide.
Things went from bad to worse for Roma when Totti was given his marching orders on 88 minutes. The Italian playmaker took a swing at Balotelli from behind in frustration and was sent off by the referee.
Things turned ugly towards the end but it eventually finished 1-0 to Inter, meaning that the Nerazzurri's treble hopes are still alive.
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