Inter Milan dug deep to see off a spirited Empoli side in a cracking Coppa Italia Round of 16 clash at San Siro on Wednesday.
Inter Milan had to dig deep to ensure they saw off Empoli to enter the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday night. A much-changed Nerazzurri side took an early lead thanks to Alexis Sanchez’s 13th-minute strike. Inter had several chances to extend their lead but failed to increase their advantage on the night.
Their profligacy gave Empoli hope of a comeback, and Nedim Bajrami duly equalised for the visitors after the hour mark. Empoli then took a shock lead with 14 minutes to go, as Patrick Cutrone’s bullet header rebounded off the crossbar onto Ionut Radu before creeping past the line into the net.
The Serie A champions were shell shocked for a minute but quickly regained their bearings searching for an equaliser. Their efforts bore fruit in stoppage time when Andrea Ranocchia scored a spectacular scissor kick to draw the home side level.
The equaliser shifted the momentum in Inter’s favour, and Stefano Sensi scored the winner in the 14th minute of extra time. It may not have been easy, but Inter again showed their mettle and saw off the game to progress to the quarter-finals.
20 – Inter have found the net with 20 different players this season, more than any other big-5 European side considering all competitions. Assortment.#InterEmpoli #CoppaItaliaFrecciarossa pic.twitter.com/MKtpA3dPzl
— OptaPaolo 🏆 (@OptaPaolo) January 19, 2022
If anything, the match showcased the difference in quality between Inter’s first-choice XI and the reserves. It is fair to say that strength in depth continues to be an issue for the Italian champions. The Hard Tackle looks at how Simone Inzaghi’s men fared on the night.
Andrei Radu: 4/10
The Romanian came in for regular goalkeeper Samir Handanovic but failed to show why he should be considered a reliable option in goal. Radu was caught in no man’s land for Empoli’s second and had the ignominy of watching the ball bounce off him for an own goal. However, he did redeem himself by denying Patrick Cutrone an equaliser in the 112th minute of the game.
Danilo D’Ambrosio: 6/10
The Italian came in for Milan Skriniar and initially struggled to find his bearings. To his credit, the 33-year-old improved as the match went on and put in a solid performance overall.
Andrea Ranocchia: 3/10
Ranocchia was dreadful for the entirety of the game and failed to provide any confidence in Inter’s backline. He could have landed a lower score on the night had it not been for the sensational stoppage-time equaliser. It was a rather forgettable outing for the 33-year-old otherwise.
🐸 | CRAZY FROG
— Inter 🏆🇮🇹 (@Inter) January 19, 2022
Federico Dimarco: 6/10
Dimarco was probably the best of Inter’s defenders on the night and was solid even if unspectacular. Dimarco has improved greatly of late, and it showed in his performance on the night.
Denzel Dumfries: 6/10
The Dutchman replaced Matteo Darmian in the starting lineup and was a bundle of energy on the right flank. His defensive game needs some work, but his attacking output is potent for the Nerazzurri. He also grabbed the assist for Sanchez’s early opener with a pinpoint cross that the Chilean drove home.
Roberto Gagliardini: 4/10
It was an awful night for the midfielder, who struggled to make any impact at either end of the pitch. Gagliardini also gave the ball away several times before being pulled in the 77th minute for Eden Dzeko.
Arturo Vidal: 6/10
The Chilean veteran was active from the get-go and was a massive presence on the defensive side of things. However, he offered little in attack and was taken off in the 65th minute after he started to show fatigue.
Matias Vecino: 4/10
Replacing Marcelo Brozovic is no mean task, and Vecino showed that the Nerazzurri have nobody within their ranks to step in for the Croat in the starting XI. Vecino struggled all game, and if anything, this should help speed up Inter’s negotiations with Brozovic regarding a new contract.
Matteo Darmian: 5/10
The Italian replaced Ivan Perisic in the left wing-back but lacked the Croatian star’s prowess going forward. Darmian did a good job defensively, but his lack of attacking penetrations stifled Inter’s movement down the left flank.
Joaquin Correa: N/A
The Argentine striker lasted a mere five minutes before being taken off injured.
Joaquin Correa had to be substituted out for Inter after only 5 minutes. It does appear that he may have pulled something. He is in the Argentina team that was announced today.
— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) January 19, 2022
Lautaro Martinez: 6/10
The Argentine international returned to the starting lineup and was probably the pick of the 11 that took to the field on the night. He provided the attacking impetus upfront and looked a proper threat going forward. Martinez made way for Stefano Sensi in the 94th minute.
Alexis Sanchez: 6/10
The Chilean replaced Correa early on and wasted no time showing off his abilities. He gave Inter the lead in the 13th minute and enjoyed a good game. His performance on the night could have been better but was an improvement over his outing last weekend against Atalanta.
4291 – Alexis Sánchez has found the net in Coppa Italia 4291 days after his previous (and first) goal in the competition, netted in April 2010 with Udinese against AS Roma. Reminiscence.#CoppaItaliaFrecciarossa #InterEmpoli
— OptaPaolo 🏆 (@OptaPaolo) January 19, 2022
Nicolo Barella: 6/10
The Italian international replaced the tired Vidal in the 65th minute and put in a dynamic performance. He helped the Nerazzurri keep their shape in the middle of the park and helped out at either end of the pitch.
Ivan Perisic: 6/10
The veteran replaced Darmian in the 65th minute and immediately livened things up on the left flank with his marauding runs. He was a major threat down his wing for the remainder of the game and showed just what he brings to the table for Inter.
Hakan Calhanoglu: 6/10
The Turkish international replaced the ineffective Vecino and immediately perked up Inter’s quality in midfield. It is fair to say that the difference in quality was quite palpable.
Edin Dzeko: 6/10
The Bosnian replaced Gagliardini and was slow to get into the game. However, he improved as the match went on.
Stefano Sensi: 7/10
Sensi was the star of the night and put in a performance that might rekindle his career at San Siro. He came on for Martinez in the 94th minute and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. Sensi also grabbed the winner in the 104th minute and will hope to continue his fine form in the games to come.