Lazio and Atalanta Squeeze Past Roma and Milan in Coppa Italia Quarter-Finals

Roma’s barren run against Lazio continued in the Coppa Italia quarter-finals. Mattia Zaccagni’s 51st-minute winner from the spot decided another ill-tempered Derby della Capitale as Maurizio Sarri’s side reached the competition’s semi-finals for the first time since lifting the title in 2018/19. 

More than just bragging rights were at stake on Wednesday evening. With both sides lagging well behind the top four in Serie A, failure was not an option. However, one team had to bow out. Unfortunately for Jose Mourinho, it was Roma. Yet, out-of-sorts Giallorossi hardly did anything to avoid another fateful Coppa Italia campaign.

In a game of few chances, one mistake made the difference. Winter arrival Dean Huijsen made a reckless challenge on Matias Vecino inside the box and thought he could get away with it when Daniele Orsato waved play on. However, after reviewing the incident with VAR, the experienced referee pointed to the spot. 

Zaccagni put away the penalty, sending Roma goalkeeper Rui Patricio the wrong way. Despite having almost the entire second half plus seven minutes in stoppages at their disposal, Mourinho’s misfiring team failed to get on the scoresheet in a fourth consecutive match against Lazio. 

Indeed, scoring opportunities were at a premium on either side of Zaccagni’s match-winning strike, making it difficult for a video editor for YouTube to piece together match highlights. As the game approached the final whistle, tension went through the roof. 

Former Roma winger Pedro picked up two yellow cards in a minute after losing his temper deep inside injury time. He wasn’t the only player Orsato had to send to the dressing room prematurely. Sardar Azmoun went mad in the dying moments, entering physical altercations with several Lazio players before the referee gave him his marching orders. 

With Roma on their knees and his relationship with the board far from ideal, Mourinho may already be searching for a creative suite in Saudi Arabia amid speculation linking him with a move to the Middle East.

Giallorossi’s upcoming Serie A rivals Milan encountered the same fate in the other quarter-final tie. Despite taking the lead, Stefano Pioli’s side slipped to a 2-1 defeat to Atalanta, suffering another premature Coppa Italia exit. 

Following a relatively uneventful opening 45 minutes of play, the San Siro crowd witnessed a frenetic ending to the first half. Milan broke the deadlock on the stroke of halftime through Rafael Leao, who latched on Theo Hernandez’s cutback on the edge of the box, finding the far-bottom corner with a superb first-time finish. 

However, Atalanta replied immediately, producing a carbon-copy of Milan’s opener as Teun Koopmeiners turned home Emil Holm’s pass with his weaker right foot to level the score before the break. Shortly after the start of the second half, Aleksey Miranchuk took advantage of Alejandro Jimenez’s youth to draw a penalty for Atalanta.

Koopmeiners was relentless from the spot, turning the game on its head and eventually propelling La Dea past Milan. After relinquishing their hope of lifting their first Coppa Italia title since 2003, Rossoneri can’t afford another slip-up against Roma at the weekend amid Pioli’s uncertain future.