Inter completed the semi-final line-up of the Coppa Italia as Nicolo Barella’s stunning strike secured a 2-1 victory over Fiorentina on a night where Christian Eriksen made his Nerazzurri debut at San Siro.
Coming into Wednesday’s encounter on the back of three successive 1-1 draws in Serie A, Inter looked to be heading for the same result after Martin Caceres cancelled out Antonio Candreva’s 44th-minute opener.
Yet within seconds of Eriksen entering the fray for his Inter bow, the home side retook the lead thanks to a sublime half-volley from Barella.
Napoli now await Inter in the last four next month, with Juventus and Milan meeting in the other semi-final.
Pol Lirola and Alexis Sanchez exchanged efforts early on – Fiorentina’s wing-back drilling wide before the Inter forward directed a close-range header at Pietro Terracciano.
A tepid first half looked set to end scoreless, but despite creating very little since the opening minutes, Inter had the lead when Candreva slotted into an empty net after Lautaro Martinez had bundled the ball into his path.
3 – Antonio #Candreva and Romelu Lukaku are the only Inter footballers to have scored in each of their 3 competitions played in the current season.
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) January 29, 2020
Martinez could have turned from provider to scorer moments after the restart but sent a powerful effort into the side netting.
Sanchez was just inches away from putting the hosts 2-0 up when his low strike crept wide, while Martinez sent a half-volley just over.
But just after Terracciano denied Matias Vecino a goal against his former club, Inter were made to pay for their profligacy on the hour as Caceres outmuscled Martinez to head home.
Samir Handanovic pulled off a brilliant save from Dusan Vlahovic to keep the scores level, and Antonio Conte quickly responded by bringing on Eriksen for his debut.
And though Eriksen was not involved, Inter led less than a minute after his introduction, Barella arrowing a wonderful half-volley into the bottom-left corner.
Martinez later had a goal – teed up by Eriksen – ruled out for offside, but the Nerazzurri sealed progression.
What does it mean? Inter ease Serie A frustration with cup run
It has been a frustrating start to 2020 in the league for Inter, with their draws allowing Juve to establish a three-point lead at the top.
But they are well in the hunt for silverware now in a competition they have not won since 2010-11, which is also the last time the Nerazzurri reached the final.
Barella sets the bar for new boy Eriksen
Eriksen had been on the pitch for just 42 seconds when his fellow midfielder restored Inter’s advantage, Barella showing his worth to Conte’s side with a brilliant all-round display capped off with a fantastic goal.
Playmaker Eriksen will surely be starting soon enough, but on this evidence, it will certainly not be at Barella’s expense.
Sanchez the man at risk?
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has surprisingly claimed Sanchez does have a future at Manchester United, but it seems the Chilean’s first priority must be to ensure he is in Inter’s starting XI.
He drifted in and out of Wednesday’s clash and, with Eriksen chomping at the bit, could be the player to make way.
Both sides return to Serie A action on Sunday, with Inter travelling to Udinese as Fiorentina face league leaders Juventus.
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