Euro 2020 Special

Coppa Italia: Napoli Claim Crucial First-Leg Win Over Inter

Inter Milan 0-1 Napoli

Inter Milan suffered a major setback in their Coppa Italia semi-final tie with Napoli as they lost the first leg 0-1 at home.

A stunning goal from Fabian Ruiz was enough to secure victory for the visitors, who did not start either captain Lorenzo Insigne or Kalidou Koulibaly, who has been suffering an injury.

But despite those key absentees, they defied the Coppa Italia 2020 predictions and are now halfway toward spoiling Inter’s dream of a league and cup double.

As for Inter, they must regroup quickly from this defeat, especially with a massive match in Serie A coming up this weekend.



Highlights of the game

Despite Inter’s big match with Lazio this weekend, the big Coppa Italia 2020 news was that manager Antonio Conte still came out with a strong side, with star forwards Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez both starting up front.

Lautaro was involved in Inter’s first meaningful attack on six minutes. The Argentine’s activity from the left wing eventually led to a Marcelo Brozovic shot from the edge of the box, but the Inter captain’s tame attempt went straight into the arms of Napoli keeper David Ospina.

Napoli’s first sight on goal fell to Dries Mertens, who was preferred up front over an in-form Arkadiusz Milik. The little Belgian got a good connection on his shot but blasted it over the bar. Lautaro countered with a couple of chances of his own, but neither one troubled Ospina.

Neither side could create any clear-cut opportunities for the remainder of the first half. Napoli produced perhaps the best chance of the half for either side in stoppage time. A quick counterattack saw Mertens find Piotr Zielinski, whose shot was saved by Inter keeper Daniele Padelli.

Napoli players protested about a possible handball by Inter defender Stefan de Vrij, but while the ball clearly made contact with his hand (albeit unintentionally), the referee did not award the hosts a penalty.

Conte’s men came out with much more aggressiveness after the half. But for all of their possession, the only noteworthy attempt they could produce was a weak Lukaku header that was easily caught by Ospina.

Napoli had to wait until the 57th minute for their first true look on goal in the second half, but it was worth the wait as they got the breakthrough goal courtesy of Fabian Ruiz. The Spaniard got the start despite not featuring for the past couple of games, and he justified manager Gennaro Gattuso’s decision with a magnificent goal.

Antonio Conte is disappointed as Inter Milan lost 1-0 to Napoli in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal
                                               Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte reacts during Coppa Italia match against Napoli at the San Siro stadium

After a one-two with Giovanni Di Lorenzo at the edge of the box, Ruiz created space for himself, then unleashed a sensational shot that curled in beyond the outstretched arm of Padelli.

Lukaku had a decent chance to equalise on 75 minutes as he had a point-blank shot in a crowded six-yard box. A Napoli defender tried to get the ball clear, but it ended up hitting a team-mate. Luckily for them, the ball eventually broke for Ospina, who quickly smothered it.

That was just about as close as Inter got to an equaliser. Unlike their brilliant derby win against AC Milan, there was to be no amazing comeback for Inter as Napoli were successfully able to silence their hosts and hold on for a big win at the San Siro.


Key statistics

Inter won the statistical battle, which was not surprising given they were the home team. They had the majority of possession (55 per cent to 45) and had a 13-5 edge on shots (4-2 on target).

Lautaro and Lukaku both finished with four shots apiece, but they were simply unable to create great chances in front of goal. The introductions of Christian Eriksen and Alexis Sanchez in the second half were also unable to provide that spark, which is somewhat concerning for Conte.

The loss snaps Inter’s 10-match unbeaten run in all competitions. It was also their first match to an Italian opponent since losing to Juventus back in October.


What’s next?

Conte’s men won’t have much time to dwell on this defeat as they face a crucial match away to third-placed Lazio over the weekend. Lazio sport an even longer unbeaten run in Serie A than Inter and have been excellent at home with nine wins and three draws in 12 matches.

Thanks to their amazing form coupled with home advantage, the SBOTOP predictions for that match have Lazio as the slight favourites to win, which could potentially send them top of the table if Juventus fail to beat relegation-threatened Brescia.

As for Napoli, they will be away from home as they take on a struggling Cagliari side which has now gone winless in 10 straight matches in all competitions (six losses, four draws).

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