MILAN – The Nerazzurri’s return to the pitch after a long period of inactivity will see them play the second leg of their semi-final clash against Napoli in the Coppa Italia. In the first fixture at San Siro, Fabian Ruiz’s goal was enough to secure a 1-0 win for the Partenopei. The last Coppa Italia game between the two sides at the San Paolo was in 2016: goals from Ljajic and Jovetic meant that Inter ran out 2-0 winners that day. There were also triumphant scenes in Naples in 2011 as the Nerazzurri progressed to the semis via a penalty shootout.
Left-footed penalty takers. Beautiful, precise, perfect, decisive. It wasn’t easy to find them, diving deep down into the archives of obscure and complicated statistics, but we managed to find a penalty shootout win with four left-footers out of five takers. All of them stepped up to that hallowed white spot at the San Paolo, with the date reading 26 January 2011 on the night. It was in the Coppa Italia, but the game in 2011 was a straight knockout game in the quarter-final. It was a tough match and ended 0-0 after extra time, the home side threatening on the break all evening through the energetic duo of Cavani and Lavezzi. But Inter held on, with big saves from Castellazzi and inspired performances from Maicon, Cambiasso and Stankovic.
It was a post-Treble Inter side, the team still reigning champions of Europe and with Leonardo at the helm, and this Coppa Italia quarter-final was a huge moment for that season, with the Nerazzurri going on to win their seventh national cup in history. There was plenty of drama on the night: Cavani’s offside goal, Stankovic’s thunderous longshots, Cambiasso’s incredible strike against the bar off Maicon’s perfect cross, with De Sanctis doing brilliantly to get a hand to it. Then Castellazzi’s miracle saves, our number 12 in between the sticks in place of Julio Cesar that evening. It was his crucial intervention to keep Hamsik out in the 84th minute that remains particularly memorable, Ranocchia then clearing the rebound effort off the line, with our number 13 the only player from that side to still be wearing Nerazzurri colours today. Castellazzi also came up strong in extra time: the Nerazzurri were grateful to him that the game ended up going to penalties in the first place.
That was when that fascinating statistic from the night occurred. The hosts took the first penalty, Cavani scoring from the spot. Leonardo then sent forward Eto’o who netted with his right. Then, it was four left-footers who stepped up: Cambiasso, Pandev, Thiago Motta and Chivu. All successful, all perfect penalties. Napoli’s decisive error came from Lavezzi, the Argentine firing high over the bar, and so it was down to Chivu to take the all-important penalty. A shaved head, scar on the side of it, a shirt showing all our trophies won, and a left-footed finish to send De Sanctis the wrong way and Inter through to the semi-finals. Inter then won the double header against Roma, lifting the trophy at the Olimpico with a 3-1 win over Palermo in the final.
NAPOLI 0-0 INTER: Inter win 5-4 on penalties (0-0 AET)
PENALTY SEQUENCE - Cavani (goal 1-0), Eto'o (goal 1-1), Hamsik (goal 2-1), Cambiasso (goal 2-2), Lavezzi (miss 2-2), Pandev (goal 2-3), Zuniga (goal 3-3), Motta (goal 3-4), Yebda (goal 4-4), Chivu (goal 4-5).
NAPOLI: 26 De Sanctis; 14 Campagnaro, 28 P. Cannavaro, 6 Aronica; 11 Maggio, 5 Pazienza (8' pts Yebda), 23 Gargano, 8 Dossena (25' st Zuniga); 17 Hamsik, 22 Lavezzi; 7 Cavani
Bench: 33 Gianello, 13 Santacroce, 25 Cribari, 77 Sosa, 99 Lucarelli
Coach: Walter Mazzarri
INTER: 12 Castellazzi; 13 Maicon, 2 Cordoba (38' st Lucio), 15 Ranocchia, 26 Chivu; 4 Zanetti, 19 Cambiasso, 8 Thiago Motta; 5 Stankovic (18' st Mariga); 9 Eto'o, 27 Pandev
Bench: 21 Orlandoni, 20 Obi, 23 Materazzi, 29 Coutinho, 39 Santon
Referee: Paolo Valeri (Rome 2)
Notes: Bookings: 26' P. Cannavaro, 41' Thiago Motta, 97' Cavani, 111' Lucio. Added time: 0’, 3’.