MILAN: Holders Juventus suffered an almighty scare on their way to a second successive Italian Cup final, dominating Inter Milan in a penalty shoot-out after Roberto Mancini’s men won 3-0 on the night to level their semi-final tie.
Juventus, who claimed their first league and cup double in 20 years last May, will now meet AC Milan in the May 21 final at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.
But in a rain-hit San Siro encounter that saw Inter dominate throughout, Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri was soon regretting his decision to deploy a second string side.
With a 3-0 cushion from the first leg, Allegri rested goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and striker Mario Mandzukic, while Giorgio Chiellini, Claudio Marchisio and Martin Caceres were all injured.
But, under the cosh following a string of poor results, Mancini cracked the whip and the Nerazzurri responded in style to take a 2-0 lead by the 49th minute thanks to Marcelo Brozovic and Ivan Perisic.
When Brozovic hit his second from the spot eight minutes from time after a dubious penalty decision, the tie was forced into extra time.
After two thrilling but goalless periods, Rodrigo Palacio’s miss from the spot made the difference as Juve stayed on track for a second consecutive domestic double.
Defender Leonardo Bonucci scored Juve’s final spot-kick to start the celebrations, although he will miss the final due to suspension after earning a caution on the night.
He later admitted that they should have progressed easily after being 3-0 up after the first leg. “We made life difficult for ourselves,” said Bonucci. ‘We were lucky to take it to penalties.”
Inter coach Roberto Mancini could only lament their luck. “We deserved to win,” he said. “But it was a great performance. I can only compliment the lads. I hope this gives us the extra spur to try and finish in third place.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2016.