Sports Monks

Cristiano Ronaldo inspires Juventus to comeback victory over Inter Milan

Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to fire Juventus to a 2-1 comeback win over Inter Milan in a hard-fought Coppa Italia semi-final first-leg clash at San Siro on Tuesday.

Lautaro Martinez gave the home side an early lead but the Portuguese replied with a penalty before pouncing on a defensive mix-up to put the Turin club in front before halftime.

Inter, without suspended top scorer Romelu Lukaku, pushed for an equaliser but couldn’t find a way past 43-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The Italian produced a superb save to deny Matteo Darmian on the 1,100th senior appearance of his career for club and country.

Nine players were booked in a fiery encounter as Andrea Pirlo’s side earned revenge for their 2-0 Serie A defeat in this fixture, known as the ‘Derby of Italy’, last month.

‘It was important after losing in the league,’ Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot told Rai Sport.

‘We saw a different team and showed that we’re at the same level as Inter.’

Juventus, who finished as runners-up last year, host the second leg in Turin on February 9 and the winner will face either Napoli or Atalanta in the final.

‘There’s still one game to go, which will be even more important and difficult, the spirit of revenge seen tonight must be reaffirmed next week,’ Rabiot added.

Inter coach Antonio Conte was without two influential players through suspension in Lukaku and wing-back Achraf Hakimi, but Martinez squeezed a finish past Buffon after nine minutes to give the hosts a perfect start.

However, Ashley Young’s tug on Juan Cuadrado resulted in a penalty following a VAR review, which Ronaldo smashed into the roof of the net.

The striker soon grabbed his second by pouncing on some hesitation between Samir Handanovic and Alessandro Bastoni on the edge of the box, pinching the ball and finishing into an unguarded net.

Inter pushed forward after the break, but they were denied by heroic last-ditch defending as Alexis Sanchez’s shot was cleared off the line by Merih Demiral and Buffon showed sharp reflexes to save Darmian’s shot.

Looking back on the league meeting with Inter, Pirlo told Rai Sport: ‘We weren’t in that game, but it served as a lesson for us. From there we regrouped, worked on the errors and more victories arrived.

‘But tonight was the first leg, there’s another game to come and it’s played over 180 minutes. Nothing is done yet.

‘The guys were great, they faced Inter with the right attitude from the first minute. We went behind, but we continued to play. There was a great reaction from the team.’

Ronaldo appeared unhappy when he was substituted on the 76th minute, but Pirlo explained he wanted to keep his Portuguese talisman fresh for a busy period of fixtures.

‘I told him that he had to come off because we have an important game on Saturday (against Roma in Serie A), so it’s right to let him catch his breath,’ Pirlo said.

‘He’s playing many games consecutively, so every now and then a little bit of rest does some good.’ 

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