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Fiorentina 0-1 Inter (Agg. 0-2): Resilient Nerazzurri Reach Coppa Italia Final


Inter moved into the final of the Coppa Italia after a 1-0 victory against Fiorentina courtesy of a second half goal from Samuel Eto'o, progressing 2-0 on aggregate.

Cesare Natali put the hosts under early pressure when he fouled Mario Balotelli 25 yards from goal, but the striker floated his free kick over the bar. Juan Manuel Vargas soon went into the book for a late challenge on Sulley Muntari as the Viola prevented the visitors from having any time or space early on.

Ten minutes in, Ivan Cordoba also earned a yellow card as he fouled Stevan Jovetic. Neither side was creating much in the way of chances, despite a good tempo to the game, but Eto'o would have been disappointed with his loose shot after beating Natali and Cristiano Zanetti inside the penalty area.

On the quarter hour mark, Maicon found room to break down the right hand side with Felipe completely absent. The Brazilian bore down on the penalty area before squaring towards Eto'o, but Lorenzo De Silvestri made an excellent challenge on the striker to prevent him from opening the scoring. De Silvestri nearly turned from hero to villain moments later when he was caught on the ball by Balotelli but the striker scuffed his shot and it rolled wide of the post.

It was the Nerazzurri who were looking the more dangerous of the sides, with Maicon revelling in his more advanced role on the right hand side, but Fiorentina should have opened the scoring after 25 minutes. Gilardino brought the ball down in the box following clever play from De Silvestri, but Lucio was on hand to clear the ball off the line after Gilardino squeezed his shot between Julio Cesar's legs.

Moments later, Zanetti found Gilardino in space in the area as Cristian Chivu was caught out of position, but the striker took too long to shoot and allowed the Inter defender to get back and block the eventual shot.

The Gigliati were improving as the half went on, winning a number of corners and keeping the Nerazzurri penned back in their own half. Riccardo Montolivo tried his luck from distance with 10 minutes remaining but didn't test Julio Cesar, while a second attempt moments later was well blocked.

Just before half-time, Maicon and Eto'o combined well before the latter easily passed Per Kroldrup in the area but Montolivo made a vital clearance to put the ball behind for a corner. With seconds to go until the break, Felipe conceded a free kick on the byline to allow Maicon to cross into the box, but Fiorentina safely cleared their lines to remain level at the whistle.

Inter took their time in reappearing for the second half, with Jose Mourinho keeping the Artemio Franchi crowd, which included Italy coach Marcello Lippi and former Viola star Stefano Borgonovo, waiting for a few extra minutes.

The Azzurri coach was almost treated to a stunning goal from Balotelli when he struck a long-range shot that was curling into the corner until Sebastian Frey tipped it round for a corner.

Ten minutes after the restart, the Nerazzurri took the lead with a wonderfully crafted move. Nothing seemed to be on for Thiago Motta, but the midfielder chipped a delicate ball over the top of the defence that allowed Eto'o to bring the ball down and lash home from close range past the helpless Frey.

With Fiorentina up against it, Cesare Prandelli threw on Keirrison and Mario Santana in an effort to turn the tie around. The hosts looked to break down the resilient Beneamata, who had introduced Esteban Cambiasso into the midfield following the goal, but they were lacking incision.

Inter also posed a threat on the counter attack, and with 15 minutes remaining Chivu found himself in behind De Silvestri but his powerful shot rippled the side netting.

Santana blazed a free kick into the night sky with 10 minutes remaining as the game slipped ever further away from Fiorentina, before Javier Zanetti was allowed to advance with the ball until he was 20 yards out, whereupon he fired a shot wide of Frey's post.

The wind was out of Fiorentina's sails as the minutes ticked by, with the crowd muted and the hosts looking ever more desperate as they struggled to find a way through the Nerazzurri defence. In the 90th minute, Zanetti found Gilardino with another fine pass but the former Milan man couldn't find the target with his first-time effort.

Inter comfortably saw out the four minutes of injury time, and they move into the final of the Coppa Italia and await the result of the second semi-final between Roma and Udinese.

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