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Monday, June 14, 2021

Napoli reach Coppa Italia final as Dries Mertens breaks club record

Napoli went through 2-1 on aggregate thanks to their 1-0 win at San Siro four months ago and will meet Juventus in Rome in Wednesday’s final.

By: Reuters | Italy, Naples |
Updated: June 14, 2020 9:41:43 am
Napoli vs Inter Milan, Inter Milan vs Napoli, Dries Mertens club record, Dries Mertens record goals, Napoli manager Gennaro Gattuso, Coppa Italia Final 2020 Napoli’s Dries Mertens celebrates scoring their first goal (Source: Reuters)

Napoli reached the Coppa Italia final with a 1-1 draw at home to Inter Milan on Saturday as Dries Mertens cancelled out a Christian Eriksen goal scored direct from a corner to became the club’s all-time record scorer.

The Belgian, in his seventh season at the club, took his tally to 122 in all competitions as he overtook Marek Hamsik, with Diego Maradona third on 115.

Napoli went through 2-1 on aggregate thanks to their 1-0 win at San Siro four months ago and will meet Juventus in Rome in Wednesday’s final. Both teams were playing their first game since the end of the three-month stoppage for the coronavirus.

Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina, badly at fault for Eriksen’s goal, made up for his early mistake with several important saves in the semi-final, second leg.

With no fans allowed, the shouting of Napoli’s Gennaro Gattuso and Inter’s Antonio Conte, two famously passionate coaches, echoed around the stadium for the entire match.

Inter wiped out their first-leg deficit in unusual fashion as Eriksen’s inswinging corner slipped between Ospina and his near post.

However, the Colombian quickly atoned for his misjudgement with a flying one-handed save to turn away Romelu Lukaku’s header and turned Antonio Candreva’s drive over the bar.

Ospina also set up the equaliser four minutes before halftime when his raking goal kick set Lorenzo Insigne free down the left and the diminutive winger slipped the ball to Mertens, who slotted it under Samir Handanovic.

Napoli started the second half well but had to withstand some late pressure.

Inter substitute Alexis Sanchez sent a shot flashing past the goal, then Ospina made an outstanding point-blank save to deny Eriksen and Victor Moses fired over from the rebound.

Napoli coach Gattuso struggles with new regulations

Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso conceded that playing amid coronavirus regulations was neither easy nor nice after his team held Inter Milan 1-1

“Today, it wasn’t easy after 95 days,” he said after the semi-final second leg, a match played behind closed doors and with strict hygiene regulations.

“Everything has been strange, and both the staff and the players did well to make it happen tonight.”

“Everything has changed, even coming to the stadium is different,” he said.

“Keeping your distance is not easy and it’s not nice. But respect for the thousands of people who have left us, it’s been a devastating thing,” he added referring to Italy’s COVID-19 death toll of almost 35,000.

The famously fiery former midfielder was pleased with his team’s display although he said that Inter’s second minute goal, scored direct from a corner by Christian Eriksen, was “daft.”

“It wasn’t (goalkeeper) David Ospina’s fault, it was an error of positioning by the defence,” he said. “But the team did well, we managed to start up where we left off 95 days ago.”

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His opposite number Antonio Conte said his side “deserved much more” over the two legs, which they lost 2-1 on aggregate.

“We created so many chances, we could have been a little more cunning near the goal, but Ospina made amazing saves,” he said.

“I am satisfied. Let’s not forget that Napoli closed up to defend themselves and catch us on the break and it’s never easy in these situations.”

Conte praised the efforts of Eriksen, who joined from Tottenham Hotspur in January.

“I’m very happy with Eriksen, he’s integrating and you can see the results of these weeks of work,” he said.

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