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Lazio and Atalanta emerged as winners from the two Coppa Italia 2018-19 Semi Finals, and will battle for the league cup title on May 15th at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. And while the Biancocelesti may have the advantage of playing the last act at home – as the Final is contested in a single-leg game hosted by the Capital – the Bergamaschi seem to have no intention to stop dreaming after having eliminated Juventus and Fiorentina on their road to Rome.
Lazio booked their ticket to the Final for the third time in five years thanks to a lone goal by Joaquin Correa, who broke the balance with Milan at the San Siro Stadium after a goalless first leg. The Eagles thus also took a sweet revenge over the Rossoneri, as a recent Serie A match had ended 1-0 in favor of Coach Gennaro Gattuso’s side.
Atalanta progressed on a 5-4 aggregate score over Fiorentina, winning their home match at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia Stadium, after snatching a spectacular 3-3 draw in Florence. A penalty by Josip Ilicic, and a goal by Captain Alejandro Gomez made La Dea come from behind despite Luis Muriel’s delusionary lead for the visitors.
Simone Inzaghi’s Biancocelesti prevailed in the first of the two Semi Finals on May 24th, a tense match forerun by controversies spanning from the outcome of the recent Serie A clash between the two clubs: Lazio’s defender Francesco Acerbi had engaged in a little social media feud with Rossoneri Frank Kessie’ and Timoue’ Bakayoko a few days before the campionato game.
At full time, the trio had exchanged their shirts in an apparent attempt to de-escalate. But then the two Rossoneri had run under their supporters’ stands to wave Acerbi’s shirt like a hunting trophy – leading to more controversies, and necessary apologies.
If that was not enough, tension increased further in the immediate hours before the game, as some representatives of the most hardcore Lazio supporters Irriducibili – whose extreme right wing positions are all but unknown – were seen displaying a banner honoring Benito Mussolini in Piazzale Loreto in Milan.
A deplorable exploit which happened right before April 25th, the day when Italians commemorate their Liberation from the Nazi occupation, and that thankfully had no further consequence than the thugs being promptly stopped by the police.
The decisive goal came seven minutes into the second half, courtesy of a swift counterattack orchestrated by Ciro Immobile and Joaquin Correa. The Azzurri striker recovered the ball in his defensive third, and advanced undisturbed all through the Rossoneri’s wasteland to serve the Argentinian an easy chance to score his first Coppa Italia goal.
Gattuso’s squad’s second half was embarrassing. Milan risked conceding a second goal on multiple occasions, and it took a Juan Manuel Reina in great shape to prevent Lazio from rounding up. Striker Krzysztof Piatek barely touched the ball in the full 90 minutes, badly assisted by wingers Suso and Samu Castillejo.
The only positive note for a red-and-black side on a declining trend – and whose 4th place in the Serie A table is also seriously at risk – was seeing defender Mattia Caldara back in the starting lineup after more than seven months.
Atalanta grabbed the second Final slot the following day, resisting Fiorentina’s initial outburst that put them ahead after just three minutes. The Viola replicated the stunning start that had permitted them to take the lead over Juventus the earlier Sunday. However, the game ended exactly in the same way for Vincenzo Montella’s band, which run out of gas fast and were eventually passed over by their opponents.
The Bergamaschi equalised with a penalty kick by Josip Ilicic, awarded for an ingenuous foul by Federico Ceccherini on Alejandro Gomez. In the second half, it was right El Papu to double up for the home side: His shot from out of the box was not irresistible, but Fiorentina’s keeper Alban Lafont deflected it into his own goal with a clumsy intervention.
The Atleti Azzurri exploded with joy at full time, hailing to the Nerazzurri and their King Midas Gian Piero Gasperini – who’s turning into gold everything he touches this season. Atalanta are still running for the 4th place in Serie A, which would mean an unprecedented qualification to Champions League, and have made their way to the Coppa Italia Final by giving Juventus a shocking 3-0 beating in the Quarter Finals.
It would only make sense that the Bergamaschi take the Bianconeri’s place – whom they forced to abdicate after four league cup titles in a row. If it wasn’t that Lazio, which are a returning guest at the Coppa Italia Final and know it like the back of their hands, are probably of a different opinion.
Stay tuned on the final showdown, on May 15th at the Olimpico in Rome, to get the answer.