MILAN: Forgotten man Christian Eriksen scored a last-gasp winner as Inter Milan advanced to the Coppa Italia semi-finals on Tuesday with a 2-1 victory over 10-man AC Milan in a fiery derby clash.
The quarter-final at the San Siro was overshadowed by a row between star strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku, who both scored on the night, with the Swede later sent off in the second half.
Ibrahimovic’s match started in typically clinical fashion in front of goal after the evergreen Swede superbly fired home in the 31st minute to give Milan the lead — his eighth goal in seven appearances for Milan against Inter in all competitions.
As the first half drew to a close, Ibrahimovic was booked for his part in a clash with Inter’s Romelu Lukaku, with the pair, former team-mates at Manchester United, continuing their argument down the tunnel at halftime.
Both seemed to have calmed down after the break, but Ibrahimovic picked up his second yellow for a trip on Aleksandar Kolarov and was sent off in the 58th minute.
“The booking for the dispute with Lukaku certainly influenced Ibrahimovic’s dismissal,” said Milan coach Stefano Pioli. “He apologised like the great champion he is. But it wasn’t easy with a man less. I didn’t hear what they said but they are old enough to take care of themselves. We have to look ahead.”
Inter coach Antonio Conte said he was happy to see Lukaku’s reaction.
“I was pleased to see Romelu like this,” said Conte. “Ibra has the wickedness of a winner. I think that Romelu, also from this point of view, is growing. For us he’s important, and if he gets angry every now and then I’m pleased.”
Inter took advantage of the extra man, with their top goalscorer Lukaku firing a 71st-minute penalty into the net off the underside of the crossbar to equalise.
Inter bombarded the Milan goal but could not find a winner until substitute Eriksen stepped up with a stoppage-time free kick to book his side a semi-final clash with either Juventus or SPAL.
Eriksens short-lived Inter career was expected to end this month after club CEO Giuseppe Marotta confirmed the midfielder is among the players the Nerazzurri are willing to sell. But Conte said the 28-year-old Eriksen remains in his plans.
“He is part of the project, Conte said. “I urged him to take the free-kick, he’s a bit shy but I hope this goal helps him. We all want him to do well because hes a good lad, perhaps too good. Were keeping a close eye on him as he is part of the group. Well all keep working hard right until the end.”
Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2021