Nagatomo rescues Inter in Italian Cup

Serie A leaders Inter Milan squeezed into the quarter-finals of the Italian Cup yesterday morning (Singapore time), winning 5-4 on penalties after being held 0-0 after extra time by third division Pordenone.

Japanese defender Yuto Nagatomo nailed the winner from the spot as Inter goalkeeper Daniele Padelli saved two penalties to put the seven-time winners through to a showdown with either AC Milan or Verona, who played this morning.

Luciano Spalletti's decision to overhaul his squad after last Saturday's goalless draw against Juventus backfired against the spirited Serie C side, who eliminated top-flight Cagliari in the last round.

"The players who have had lesser playing time found it difficult tonight, because Pordenone had quality in midfield," said Spalletti.

"We couldn't take control of the ball to play, instead we felt challenged dealing with their various roles.

"Then, from a psychological point of view, everything became complicated because they became fired-up as the game went on. At the end, I was starting to lose confidence."

Spalletti left big guns including captain Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic on the bench, bringing in defender Andrea Ranocchia, forward Yann Karamoh, and Padelli.

An increasingly frustrated Spalletti brought Perisic and, later, Icardi on, but the duo couldn't break through, leading to the penalty shoot-out in which Nagatomo scored the final penalty to seal his side's passage to the next round.

"Everyone had their heads down in the dressing room, and I understand that," said Pordenone coach Leonardo Colucci.

"They have to remember that we only lost on penalties to the Serie A leaders. Taking Inter to penalties is like winning the Cup for us." - AFP