Rome, Jun 13 (efe-epa).- Napoli needed a strong performance from goalkeeper David Ospina to hold Inter Milan 1-1 on Saturday in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal for a 2-1 triumph on aggregate.
Despite getting off to a terrible start, the Colombian made key stops to put Napoli in the June 17 final against Juventus.
Ospina conceded just two minutes into Saturday’s clash at the San Paolo in Naples, as Inter’s Christian Eriksen converted directly from a corner to level the tie at 1-1.
The Danish international also earned himself at least a footnote in the history of Italian soccer by scoring the first goal of the re-start following the suspension of play in March due to Covid-19.
While action resumed Friday with the Coppa semifinal second-leg between Juventus and AC Milan, that match ended with no goals.
Energized by the early goal, Inter flew forward as passes from Eriksen and Antonio Candreva found strikers Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku in deep in Napoli territory.
Amid Inter’s dominance, Ospina made a solid stop against Candreva before releasing Lorenzo Insigne on the counter.
Insigne drove deep into the offensive zone before passing to Dries Mertens, who struck home to put Napoli ahead 2-1 overall in the 41st minute and become the top scorer in club history.
It was the Belgian’s 122nd goal for Napoli, one more than Marek Hamsik scored in 12 seasons with the team.
Insigne didn’t miss by much on a chance early in the second half before both teams shifted into a lower gear on their first competitive outing in more than three months.
The Italian soccer federation has followed the examples of their counterparts in Germany, Spain and England in expanding the number of substitutions from three to five to compensate for the unusual conditions arising from the pandemic.
With less than 30 minutes left in regulation, both coaches decided to bring on fresh legs.
Inter benefitted more from the reinforcements and claimed the momentum. Alexis Sanchez came close with a thunderous blast and Eriksen forced a pair of great stops from Ospina.
Napoli were sorely tested, but they hung on for the win.
Juventus will be playing for their 14th Coppa Italia championship in next Wednesday’s final at Rome’s Olympic stadium, while Napoli have hoisted have hoisted the Coppa five times. EFE