Inter showed its resolve to recover from a nightmare end to regular time in front of its own fans, finally overcoming Bologna 3-2 after squandering a 2-0 lead in the final minutes to go through to the semifinal of the Coppa Italia.
Fredy Guarin and Rodrigo Palacio appeared to have assured qualification for the home side with a goal each, but Bologna battled back and regained parity through Alessandro Diamanti and Alberto Gilardino in the dying minutes of the second half. The game was finally decided thanks to Andrea Ranocchia, who scored the decisive strike seconds before the end of extra time.
The quarterfinal tie began in an even fashion, with Inter perhaps shading the opening exchanges albeit facing strong resistance from an organized Bologna outfit. After failing to impress against Pescara at the weekend, Antonio Cassano was back to his best as he spearheaded his side's attack; the forward almost opened the scoring after a wonderful run through the heart of the away defense, only to drag his effort wide after running out of space in the penalty area. Follow GOAL.COM on Twitter
Bologna struggled to break down its rivals in the final third, and looked most dangerous from distance. Alessandro Diamanti was a constant danger at that range and fired an effort into the side-netting for his side's best early chance, while at the other end a delightful Cassano free kick was headed just wide by Matias Silvestre. Il Bambino's partnership with Fredy Guarin was giving the visiting backline no end of trouble, and it was no surprise when one of the duo opened the scoring.
Cassano laid off to his Colombian teammate on the edge of the area with 34 minutes played, but Guarin still had a lot of work to do. With a delicate feint the playmaker shrugged off his marker's attentions, and the few Inter fans who had made the midweek trip to Guiseppe Meazza were left delighted as their man released a bullet shot that left Federico Agliardi with no chance to save.
Bologna was left to chase the game from 1-0 down, but to their credit the Rossoblu refused to give up. Samir Handanovic became the hero for Inter with a couple of top-class saves, denying Alberto Gilardino after the striker connected with Marco Motta's cross and following that stop by denying Diamanti once more from distance. The goalkeeper's safe hands ensured Inter would enter the break with a slim advantage, as they chased a place in the last four of Italy's domestic cup competition.
The visitors continued their search for an equalizer after the break, aided by an Inter team that reemerged from the tunnel a far more defensive outfit than that which departed from the first half. Bologna was gifted possession by the deep-lying hosts, but still looked most dangerous when hitting from outside the area; another Diamanti bomb whistled inches wide of Handanovic's post in a heart-stopping moment for the Neroazzurri.
After an indifferent start to the half, Inter finally regained its previous rhythm and started to push forward once more, always inspired by Cassano, who was directing proceedings. The speed of Alvaro Pereira almost yielded a second goal when the Uruguayan sprinted through to meet a deep pass, but he was thwarted by the swift reaction of Agliardi who came racing out to deny the wing-back one on one.
The match appeared to have ended as a contest 15 minutes from time, when Inter punished its opponents on the break. Juan's long pass upfield found substitute Rodrigo Palacio, and the Argentine did brilliantly to advance before curling a glorious 25-yard effort beyond Agliardi and into the top corner.
Bologna was not sunk though. Diamante hit back almost immediately with a free kick guided with expert precision into the roof of the net.
Andrea Ranocchia then gave his side a scare in heading against his own post, and there would be one more twist in the tale during regular time. Marco Motta floated a teasing centre across the Inter goal, and it was met by Gilardino, who flew in to level the scores with just seven minutes remaining. The drama continued with Ranocchia bundling Cassano's cross into the net, but the effort was ruled out for a foul as the game entered extra time.
After that frenetic finish the game lowered in tempo during the next 30 minutes, although Javier Zanetti and Manolo Gabbiadini both missed golden chances to put their teams through. In the dying seconds, however, Ranocchia nodded home a corner to give his side the most dramatic of victories.
Inter moves on to meet either Roma or Fiorentina in the last four, the two teams meeting on Thursday evening. Juventus and Lazio will dispute the other semifinal clash.
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