Ranocchia secures 120th minute Coppa Italia win

Posted by Mike Whittaker

The Coppa Italia may hold the least prestige out of all the competitions Inter are fighting for this season, but as seven time winners, the club are the third most successful team in the tournament behind rivals Roma and Juventus, who have both lifted the trophy nine times each.

With such a connection, it stands to reason that the Nerazzurri see this as a competition worth fighting for. Let's be honest here. The Coppa Italia is the only trophy Inter could realistically lift this season. I'm not saying the Nerazzurri should be written off in the other competitions, but success in Europe or the league just isn't looking realistic.

Before the game against Bologna the Inter management made a point of emphasising how important the Coppa is for them with Massimo Moratti stating: "It's unquestionably important, for both our players and the club, so it will be taken seriously."

This sentiment was echoed by his coach Andrea Stramaccioni in the pre-match press conference where he gave a rallying call to the fans and players: "We're Inter and we want to go all the way. We're treating tomorrow's game very seriously."

In the game itself, all of Inter's deficiencies were exposed, and throughout the majority of the match Bologna looked the better team. That said, despite Inter not playing anywhere near their best, it was an extremely entertaining match, even more so if you were watching as a neutral.

Up front Stramaccioni opted for the strike pairing of Antonio Cassano and Tomasso Rocchi, both of whom didn't have a great game. Cassano showed a little of his usual skill, but in general he just looked tired. As for Rocchi, the best way to describe his game would be to say he was ineffective. For me, he looked disconnected from the rest of the team, and his lack of pace meant he struggled to create any real chances for himself.

Of course, he's only just joined the club and hasn't played many games this season so I suppose he can be excused for looking rusty. Fredy Guarin was stunning throughout the game, and his venomous strike that gave the home side the lead came from a wonderful bit of skill as he created space for himself between two Bologna defenders. I could not fault the Colombian who performed both his defensive, creative and offensive duties with energy, strength and most importantly, a passion to help his team secure the victory they needed.

I got the feeling from Stramaccioni's body language when Rodrigo Palacio came on to replace the disappointing Rocchi that he had wanted to rest the Argentinean with Sunday's big game against Roma in mind, but with Rocchi failing to deliver, he was left with little choice. Luckily for Inter, Palacio's inclusion in the game had a hugely positive effect; he brought with him onto the pitch some much needed pace and movement for Inter's attack.

Palacio more than deserved his goal after going on a storming run from the middle of the pitch through the ranks of Bologna players who had just switched off thinking that the ball had crossed the sideline. Replays show only a fraction of the ball crossed the line as Juan Jesus expertly controlled the ball and sent it forward to the awaiting Palacio -- a costly mistake by Bologna that Palacio took full advantage of.

After Palacio's goal I was sure Inter had the game in the bag, but soon afterward during a Bologna attack, Pereira went for the ball near his own area and instead of just clearing it away from the danger, he tried to perform some fancy flick which instead resulted in him flattening the Bologna attacker, giving away a free kick that Alessandro Diamanti expertly put past Samir Handanovic. Then just minutes later, Inter's other wingback Jonathan was responsible for allowing Bologna to even up the score, proving once again that he is incapable of playing to standard expected of an Inter player.

In my opinion, a major factor in both the Bologna goals was the fact that after Palacio scored his goal, Inter started to play a counterattacking game which gave the visitors the opportunities to use their superior possession to create their chances. Handanovic should be applauded for his performance in this game, and although two shots beat him, he did make several world class saves that denied Bologna in both the first and second halves.

However, the real hero of the night was Andrea Ranocchia who managed to head home the winning goal in the dying seconds of extra time, just when everyone watching had resigned themselves to the fact that the game would be decided by a penalty shootout. As well as securing the win for the Nerazzurri, Ranocchia's defending throughout the match was fantastic as he made crucial tackles and blocks every time he was called upon.

This win for Inter has secured their place in what will be their 30th Coppa Italia semi-final, which will be held on the 23rd January against either Fiorentina or their old Coppa rival, Roma, who they also face next in their Serie A fixture this coming Sunday.

With such a difficult and important league game against the Giallorossi in just five days' time, Inter could've done without this game stretching to 120 minutes. By the end of the match, all the Nerazzurri players looked exhausted, though huge respect must be given to the captain Javier Zanetti, who even after over 115 minutes of running up and down the pitch was still creating chances in the attacking third and then tracking all the way back to his own area to help his teammates defend.

I'm just hoping the key members of the squad can recover sufficiently to claim a vital three points from an out of form Roma side, in a game that should also see a return of Diego Milito and Phillipe Coutinho in a bid to help the Nerazzurri's chase for a top three finish.

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