Italian football resumed after the two-week winter break with the Coppa Italia and it was a clean slate for the big boys which set up some mouthwatering clashes in the quarter-finals.
Lazio 4-1 Novara
A routine home win for the Biancocelesti started off in the 12th minute as Luis Alberto collected a pass inside the away team’s penalty box, skipped past a defender and placed a left-footed strike under the goalkeeper. The home doubled their lead through Ciro Immobile after Sergej Milinkovic-Savic was clipped in the box. The striker’s spot-kick was saved by Elia Benedettini in the Piedmont-based team’s goal, but Immobile bundled home the rebound. The Biancazzurri created a couple of chances which they did not take and they were made to pay for that soon after. Immobile doubled his tally as he tapped in the ball from a Jordan Lukaku low cross. Almost on the stroke of half-time, Serbian star Milinkovic-Savic curled in a brilliant free-kick to make it 4-0 for the six-time Coppa Italia winners. Novara got a consolation goal just after the start of the second half through an Umberto Eusepi penalty, but the Romans saw out the result quite easily.
Sampdoria 0-2 Milan
Two well-taken goals from Patrick Cutrone gave the Rossoneri an important victory over an in-form Sampdoria side at the Marassi. In the first half, the best chance fell to Gonzalo Higuain but he failed to find the back of the net, while the home team’s best chances came in the second through Fabio Quagliarella, Ricardo Saponara, and Albin Ekdal. However, no break-through in regular time meant the game was headed to extra-time. Here, it was the Blucerchiati who created the best chances, but a combination of poor finishing and clinical Pepe Reina reflexes in the Milan goal kept it scoreless. The away side made the most of those misses, and it was that man again Cutrone who delivered the goods. His first was an instinctive volley with his left after meeting an Andrea Conti cross and the second was a lob over Samp’s goalkeeper after a lovely crossfield pass by Hakan Calhanoglu. It was a good way for Milan to head towards Jeddah for the Supercoppa Italiana versus Juventus on Wednesday.
Bologna 0-2 Juventus
Early goals in both halves gave the Bianconeri a routine win over the Rossoblu at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara. An absolute howler from the home team’s goalkeeper Angelo Da Costa, who dropped the ball after coming off his line, allowed Federico Bernardeschi to score into an open goal in the ninth minute. Douglas Costa was a constant threat for Juve on the attack throughout, but the game went into the break with just the one goal. It all changed just four minutes on the resumption after Moise Kean scored after running onto a deflected shot to double the defending champions lead. Bologna had no answers, despite Juve resting several key players, and the match ended without much action after that.
Torino 0-2 Fiorentina
A Federico Chiesa brace allowed La Viola to beat their “friends” the Granata in Torino. I say ‘friends’ because these two clubs are twinned so the hardcore fans have a great relationship. Both teams created chances with Sirigu having to save from Kevin Mirallas and Andrea Belotti missing a volley when all alone from just four yards out. It all changed as Giovanni Simeone led a Fiorentina counter by carrying the ball 50 yards, had a shot that was saved by Toro’s goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, but the ball fell kindly to Chiesa, and the starlet bundled it home into the goal. Just five minutes later, he had his second, with a neat finish from outside of his right boot when he was one on one with the goalie. There was a thought that he had fouled a Torino defender in winning the ball, but after the VAR check, it was ruled a valid goal. The home side had no way back despite an additional eight minutes of added on time.
Inter 6-2 Benevento
The Nerazzurri thumped their visitors but virtually nobody was there to see it as it was the first of two games that the home side have to play with no fans after some of their supporters made racist chants against Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly. Captain Mauro Icardi scored a third-minute penalty after Antonio Candreva was brought down in the box. The former Italy international then got on the score-sheet himself with a rifled right-footed effort after Icardi hit the post with a header from a corner. Brazilian left-back Dalbert tripled Inter’s lead with a bullet into the net after running on from a pass by Ivan Perisic. Perisic would get another assist, this time crossing for Lautaro Martinez to head home early in the second half. Benevento got one back through Roberto Insigne with a free-kick that curled around the wall. Il Biscione continued to pour forward and the combination of Perisic and Martinez thrived again, as the Argentine scored with a right footed shot in the box. The Campanian’s got another goal as Filippo Bandinelli scored with a header in the 74th minute. Candreva then also got a brace with a well-placed shot after breaking towards the goal to seal the win.
Napoli 2-0 Sassuolo
A man of the match performance from the in-form Arkadiusz Milik gave the Partenopei the win in a highly entertaining match at the San Paolo. The Polish striker got his goal after Lorenzo Insigne crossed the ball from the left, however, the Neroverdi goalkeeper could only parry the ball into the path of Milik, and the ball hit his lower abdomen. It was a free-flowing move that Napoli has been come to be known for around the world. The away side thought they had equalized through Manuel Locatelli. He had scored with a rasping left-footed effort inside the box, however, he was adjudged to have handled the ball in the initial shot of the play and it was ruled out. The home side confirmed the win in the Coppa Italia after Milik set up Spaniard Fabian Ruiz. Jose Callejon’s cross was not dealt with, Milik collected at the byline, looked up and saw the onrushing Ruiz, who hit an unstoppable left-footed drive into the goal.
Cagliari 0-2 Atalanta
An entertaining end to end game between the Sardinians and La Dea was won by the team from Lombardia. Both teams created countless chances, but a combination of the post, smart goalkeeping and slight lack of composure in front of goal denied both teams for most of this game. That was until the 88th minute: Duvan Zapata carried his 2018 form into the new year by breaking the deadlock with a header, after meeting a mistimed shot from a teammate. The Colombian then turned provider, setting up Mario Pasalic with some superb hold-up play as he fought off two Cagliari defenders to lay the ball off for the Croatian to score.
Roma 4-0 Virtus Entella
A professional performance from the Giallorossi booked their spot in the last eight of the Coppa over the visitors from Liguria. Within just 23 seconds, Patrick Schick opened the scoring with a flick from a Cengiz Under low cross. The home team’s pressure was constant, and Ivan Marcano doubled their lead late in the first half, guiding home a left-footed shot after meeting the ball that was flicked. The Czech star Schick got a brace with a well placed shot early on in the second half from a pass from Justin Kluivert. The Dutchman got his second assist after setting up Javier Pastore and the rout was completed.
So, we are now set for the quarter-final stage of the 2018-2019 Coppa Italia and the match-ups are as follows :
- Inter vs Lazio
- Fiorentina vs Roma
- Juventus vs Atalanta
- Milan vs Napoli
It can be said that the eight best sides in Calcio have made it to the quarter-finals, so we should have four highly entertaining and intense matches.