Inter beat Hellas Verona 2-0 with Fredy Guarin scoring one and creating another, but Luca Castellazzi was stretchered off and Rodrigo Palacio had to play in goal! Andrea Stramaccioni’s men go on to face either Napoli or Bologna in the Quarter-Finals in January.
Over 8,000 Hellas Verona fans came to San Siro for the Coppa Italia tie, as they were the only Serie B side left in the competition. The Nerazzurri welcomed back Cristian Chivu for his first start in four months after a toe injury, giving him the captain’s armband, and opted for a 3-4-3 system.
It was a foggy night in Milan and Daniele Cacia had the ball in the net after five minutes, but was flagged offside. Play was halted on 15 minutes, as a combination of fog, smoke bombs from the stands and tear gas due to trouble between Hellas fans and police outside were making it difficult to see and breathe on the pitch.
The first real chance of the game saw Verona go on the counter, Cacia held off Chivu with his back to goal and spun round to curl wide of the far post.
Palacio had the ball in the net, but only after the referee had blown the whistle for a foul on Antonio Cassano, so the official should’ve waited to play the advantage. From that free kick on the edge of the box, Cassano turned a dangerous set piece inches past the upright.
Alvarez completed a give-and-go with Palacio to toe-poke at full stretch, but goalkeeper Rafael performed a desperate reaction save with his trailing foot.
Jonathan Carrozza came off the bench and within 90 seconds had stung Castellazzi’s palms with an angled drive. Moments later, an inspired Cassano cross-field pass sent Alvarez running and his shot was deflected on to the side-netting.
The deadlock was broken soon after on the counter-attack, as Guarin tackled Evangelos Moras in midfield and Cassano burst through the middle, keeping his cool to draw the goalkeeper out and deposit a delicate angled drive into the empty net.
Palacio leapt in the air, but not enough to make contact with Yuto Nagatomo’s cross, and the move continued with Alvarez’s fierce strike earning a corner.
Inter doubled their lead with a stroke of luck, as a touched-on Guarin free kick from the edge of the box took a massive deflection off Emil Hallfredsson to loop in off the underside of the crossbar.
The Nerazzurri had woken up and Cassano set up Palacio for a lob that Rafael flew to flap out from under the bar. The goalkeeper was better with his hands than his feet, as he cleared straight on to Palacio and the ricochet sailed just off target.
Castellazzi leapt to catch a Hallfredsson deflected strike, but the Inter shot-stopper landed awkwardly on his shoulder and was able to continue after treatment.
Javier Zanetti also came on and volleyed over from a Cassano chipped cross, then Rafael parried a Palacio shot from point-blank range at the near post after FantAntonio’s backheel flick.
Verona could’ve come back into the game at the 70th minute, but Valeri Bojinov’s brilliant first touch to send him clear was not matched by a terrible blast over the bar.
Cacia hit a fantastic half-volley that Castellazzi palmed out from under the bar, but again the Inter goalkeeper landed on that left shoulder and was stretchered off in agony. It was particularly bad timing at the 78th minute, as Inter had already completed their substitutions. Palacio went in goal wearing second choice ‘keeper Vid Belec’s shirt. Chivu had seemed to be taking the gloves, but the Argentine was chosen after a discussion between players.
Bojinov fired wide from 12 yards, then Armin Bacinovic had a free header at the back post, but didn’t get enough power on to it and Palacio was able to save.
Palacio performed a wonderful save with one hand to turn Carrozza’s header round the post and grinned from ear to ear after this surprising feat.
Inter 2-0 Verona
Scorers: Cassano 50 (I), Guarin 54 (I)
Inter: Castellazzi; Silvestre, Chivu, Juan (Zanetti 55); Jonathan, Duncan, Mariga (Guarin 46), Nagatomo; Alvarez, Palacio, Cassano (Pereira 75)
Hellas Verona: Rafael; Abbate, Moras, Maietta, Albertazzi (Cocco 80); Jorginho, Bacinovic, Hallfredsson; Gomez Taleb (Carrozza 46), Cacia, Grossi (Bojinov 54)