Matteo Darmian fired holders Inter into the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia as the Nerazzurri ground out a 1-0 victory over Atalanta at San Siro on Tuesday.
Inter lifted the Supercoppa Italiana by thumping rivals Milan in Saudi Arabia earlier in January, but their chances of retaining the Coppa Italia trophy were put to the test by an Atalanta side previously unbeaten in six games in all competitions.
Unlikely hero Darmian popped up with a well-taken winner in the 57th minute to see Inter through to the final four for a fourth successive campaign.
With the likes of Milan and Napoli already out of the competition, Inter will fancy their chances of lifting the trophy for a ninth time.
The first half lacked clear-cut chances, though Hakan Calhanoglu nearly put Inter ahead when his dipping long-range effort crashed off the post with Juan Musso beaten.
Duvan Zapata then missed a golden opportunity for Atalanta just before the break, heading over after Joakim Maehle’s excellent delivery picked him out.
So well taken #ForzaInter #CoppaItaliaFrecciarossa #InterAtalanta pic.twitter.com/ZujcaiuREY
— Inter (@Inter_en) January 31, 2023
Maehle nearly turned from provider to finisher after the break, but his sidefooted effort flew over after Andre Onana failed to deal with a cross.
Atalanta were made to pay for that miss shortly after, as Darmian stroked a left-footed shot into the bottom right-corner when Lautaro Martinez deftly set him up.
Jeremie Boga fizzed a shot just wide as the visitors searched for an equaliser, while substitute Ademola Lookman saw a low effort saved by Onana.
Atalanta pressed late on, but Inter held firm to see out the remaining minutes and edge a step nearer to another final.
4 – Inter have reached the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia for the fourth season in a row, having been eliminated in the quarter-finals in the three editions beforehand. Certainty.#InterAtalanta
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) January 31, 2023
What does it mean? Inter’s hunt for trophies boosted
Inter’s Serie A title hopes look slim, with leaders Napoli holding a 13-point lead and showing no sign of slowing down their rampant pace, but the Nerazzurri could still be lifting silverware come the end of the season.
While they were not at their brilliant best against Atalanta, Simone Inzaghi’s side were full value for this victory as a strong defensive performance restricted Atalanta to just one shot on target and 11 touches in Inter’s box.
Darmian a surprise goalscorer
Darmian looked like a seasoned scorer as he clinically fired home from Martinez’s perfectly weighted assist for his second goal of the season in all competitions.
His goal capped an impressive display in both defence and attack, with no Inter player registering more successful passes (65), tackles (seven) and clearances (four) than him.
Lookman not suited to bench role
Despite Lookman having scored seven goals in his last four games in all competitions, Gian Piero Gasperini opted to only select the former Everton man as a substitute for this cup match.
The Atalanta head coach’s decision did not pay off, with Zapata spurning a great opportunity in the late stages of the first half before Lookman struggled to make an impact after his introduction, with his only shot a tame effort that Onana easily gathered.
These teams return to Serie A action at the weekend, with Atalanta travelling to face Sassuolo on Saturday while Inter play city rivals Milan at San Siro the following day.
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