Inter squeak into the Coppa Italia last 16

Posted by David Wilson

Fredy Guarin Inter milan team celebGettyImagesWith no major new arrivals, Inter will rely on the same set of players.

Once again, Inter made life difficult for themselves on Wednesday as they almost threw away a three-goal lead to Serie B minnows Trapani in their Coppa Italia tie before hanging on for a 3-2 victory. Inter will now travel to Udinese in January for a place in the quarter-finals.

Everything seemed to be going to plan for Walter Mazzari as Inter jumped out to a three-goal half-time lead, starting with an own goal after only four minutes from Trapani goalkeeper Richard Marcone. Ishak Belfodil scored his first goal in an Inter shirt while a penalty from Saphir Taider right before the interval seemed to have wrapped the game up for Inter.

But Inter's defensive woes continue as for the second time in four days Inter conceded at least one goal after the 85th minute. And they were not even good goals. The first was a long throw misplayed by the Inter defense and the second was long ball into the Inter penalty box that the defence could not clear. They were two really sloppy goals.

What is maddening is that Inter have conceded only 16 goals all season, yet four have been after the 83rd minute. Previously, Inter conceded late goals this season to Calgliari in the 83rd minute, Torinto in the 90th and Sampdoria in the 89th. Each led to two dropped points in Serie A.

When games enter the last 10 minutes, the really good teams are the ones scoring the last goals to grab the win or steal a point. They are not throwing away six points and almost getting knocked out the Cup. I am not sure whether it is a lack of fitness or self-confidence that is causing Inter to let in so many goals late, but this cannot continue. Inter have to be harder to score against, especially late.

Conceding the two goals really took the gloss off this victory for me. But if I had to pick a positive, it was the fact that Mazzarri was able to give Mateo Kovacic, Marco Andreolli, Gaby Mudingayi, Juan Pablo Carrizo and Wallace rare starts and much-needed playing times.

For Kovacic, who is rumored to be going out on loan next month, Wednesday’s performance did nothing to dispel the notion that he is just not ready at the moment to play for a big club such as Inter. He once again failed to play a full 90 minutes as Mazzarri dragged him off with 20 minutes to go. In those rare occasions when he has started this season, Kovacic is often substituted around the 70-minute mark, leading me to wonder if fitness is an issue.

But the only way to get fully match-fit is to play 90 minutes and maybe going on loan will allow Kovacic to gain that experience of playing 90 minutes every week in Serie A?

Another player who disappointed was Wallace. The on-loan defender from Chelsea has failed to impress me whenever I have seen him play this season and how Chelsea paid almost five million pounds for him a year ago is beyond me.

On the other hand, Andreolli and Mudingayi played well enough to keep themselves into consideration as substitutes as we head into a busy month of games before the winter break. Neither of them were outstanding, but they were not poor, and against Trapani that was good enough.

With Inter down to bare bones up-front, Mazzarri gave Rodrigo Palacio a much needed night off, which opened the door for Belfodil to show the Inter boss what he could do. Belfodil took his goal well, turning in a Pereira cross at the near post. At times he looked like a 21-year-old who had hardly played this season, but overall I thought he did enough to justify being the first striker off the bench for Mazzarri.

Belfodil was replaced in the 83rd minute by teen striker Bonazzoli Federico. At 16 years, 6 months and 13 days old, Federico became the second youngest person to play for Inter. The record is still held by Beppe Bergomi, who was 16 years and 39 days when he made his debut on January 30, 1980, against Juventus.

Up next for Inter is a home game against Parma on Sunday.

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