Wednesday night bore witness to a not-so-classic Coppa Italia semi final second leg between Lazio and AC Milan. The visitors eventually progressed into the final after a 5-4 penalty shootout victory - following a goalless 120 minutes.
After a (yep, you got it) goalless first leg, Gennaro Gattuso’s men strode into the game with the advantage of the away goals rule on their side – knowing that a score draw would see them face either Juventus in the final. They beat Atalanta earlier in the day.
However, a strong Lazio side with the home advantage were always going to be difficult to overcome; and as most would expect, the match promised a lot of action – which most definitely was not delivered.
The game got off to a lively but scrappy start, with good chances coming for both sides in the opening twenty minutes.
Lazio’s Ciro Immobile forced Gianluigi Donnarumma into a great save five minutes in. The Italian leapt highest in the box to get his head onto a ball in from the left wing – his effort being neatly tipped over the bar by his compatriot.
The 26th minute saw the best opportunity of the first half open up for Milan on the back of a deep free kick into the box. Lazio stopper Thomas Strakosha’s botched punch attempt dropped the ball into Patrick Cutrone with an empty net in his sights. However, the ball fizzed in a bit too fast for the striker, and he failed to capitalise on the opportunity.
A slip up from Donnarumma after 35 minutes let Immobile have a strike at an empty net from an impossible angle. While the attacker would’ve been hoping to do better, it would’ve taken something miraculous to find the net from the by-line.
Despite both sides having good opportunities to get the ball into the back of the net, neither team could do quite enough to change the score line, and the first half ended goalless.
The second half began similarly to the first – scrappy, no team able to fully dominate, and half chances appearing every now and then.
Ten minutes after play restarted, Davide Calabria forced Strakosha into a good save, with the ball falling to him to the right of the six yard box. His drilled shot fell to the side of the Lazio keeper, but Strakosha was equal to it as he tipped the effort away from danger.
As the half drew on, chances began to dissipate, and neither side really looked likely to score any time soon.
The 70th minute saw Lazio begin to get on top of the match, but chances remained at a premium, and Donnarumma never really found himself being tested, despite Milan spending a lot of time in their own half.
For all the chances created throughout the 90 minutes, neither side had it in them to break the deadlock; relying on extra time to end the match.
The first half of extra time saw Milan take the initiative, asking more questions than their opponents. Hakan Calhanoglu came inches away from finally beating Strakosha with a wonderfully hit free kick, but the Albanian adjusted his feet quickly to deny the Milan player.
That effort proved to be the best – and only real – opportunity of the first half of extra time, and the two sides emerged for the final 15 with penalties looming after the short break. Never have two teams looked so close, yet so far from scoring a goal.
The 116th minute so nearly saw the scoreline finally change. On a lightning fast counter attack, an overlap of three Milan players found Nikola Kalinic one on one with Strakosha. The heat of the moment most definitely got to him though, as he blazed the ball over from ten yards.
The game was destined for a penalty shootout, and it eventually arrived.
Finally, some goalmouth action! And Milan rather tentatively crept through to the final thanks to converted penalties from Giovanni Bonaventura, Fabio Borini, Leonardo Bonucci, Calhanoglu and Alessandro Romagnoli.