It is in matches like this that there is everything to lose, so we need to be even more focused than in the first match, the Inter Milan central defender told Sky Sport Italia the day before the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against AC Milan, which Inter started 2-0.
Acerbi delivered on his promise, beating Inter 1-0 thanks to Lautaro Martinez’s goal in the 74th minute; the 3-0 overall score put the team in the first Champions League final since 2010. Like last Wednesday, Acerbi was softened early by Olivier Giroud. He also interrupted Júnior Messias’ feed, aimed at the Frenchman in the 36th minute. In between, Milan had its best chance, but Brahim Diaz didn’t check Andre Onan hard enough.
Matteo Darmian, who missed the ball from the air, forced Rafael Leao to dash toward goal. In the penalty area, Acerbi, with his arms outstretched, was outpaced in speed, but managed to hurry the Milan winger up and deliver a shot that came into the box. If Leao had had a second more, he could have tried to do what Martinez successfully did: aim the shot into the near corner. But he couldn’t do that because Inter’s sloppy Italian defender was in the middle of the back three.
Milan expected to use the pace of Leao and Theo Hernandez against the 35-year-old Acerbi and the 33-year-old Darmian. It didn’t work because Inter were more united – Edin Dzeko, who stepped back to help the defense, emphasized Martinez’s words about unity, the importance of which the Argentine said he understood after a successful World Cup – and because Acherbi didn’t make a single wrong foot. Except for an intentional hit on Sandro Tonali.
Acherby did not let Giroud out of his sight; he looked back to see where the striker was after fending off Leao’s shot. Leao ensures Milan’s safety, Acherby said Tuesday. So, in the 68th minute, without taking his eyes off the ball, Acerbi not only stopped Leao’s attempt to beat him in the penalty area, but also won the fight for the ball.
Acherby even distracted from directing the action on the back line and checked Mike Mainian. Among Inter’s outfield players, only Alessandro Bastoni completed more long passes than he did (7-3), and Acherby ranked second behind Hakan Calhanoglu (17-9) in short passes. Acerbi is the leader, Gazzetta dello Sport said.
A late bloomer, Acerbi made his Serie A debut at age 22, spent a season at Milan, butthen shone at Sassuolo and Lazio before moving to Inter in 2022.
In 2013, in his first season at Sassuolo, Acerbi was diagnosed with testicular cancer. This, he said, helped him win his battle with alcohol. According to him, because he was having a hard time dealing with his father’s death, he started drinking.
Cancer saved me. I had something to fight again, there was a limit to overcome, he said in a 2019 interview with La Repubblica newspaper. The illness spared him from remorse and regret and forced him to focus on achievable goals, such as making the national team. Acerbi did so in 2014 and made the squad that won the European Championship in 2021.
Since 2014, Acherby has been cancer-free. A season in which Borussia Dortmund striker Sebastien Haller’s recovery from testicular cancer was one of the highlights will now end with Acherby playing in Istanbul on June 10.
Not a bad turnaround also happened with Inter manager Simone Inzaghi. Between February and April, Inter drew with Sampdoria and Salernitana and lost to Bologna, La Spezia, Monza and Fiorentina. All teams were below Inter in the Serie A standings; Sampdoria dropped out, La Spezia is in 17th place, and Salernitana is in 15th place.
But, coming out of a group that included Bayern and Barcelona, Inter beat Porto, Benfica and Milan to reach their first final since winning it under José Mourinho. A Coppa Italia final against Fiorentina awaits them at home, while Inter, who are third in Serie A, travel to Napoli on Sunday.
Replacing Antonio Conte in 2021 at financially distressed Inter, Inzaghi could not stop the sale of Ahraf Hakimi, Ivan Perisic and Romelu Lukaku (he is on loan from Chelesa). AC Milan pulled out of Serie A in 2021-22, Napoli trumped the whole time, but Inter made it out of the Champions League group in 2021-22 too, for the first time in 11 years.
And now this. Inter, who last week, after scoring twice to secure a draw in the first 30 minutes, have not beaten Milan four times in a season since 1973-74.
The AP quotes Inzaghi as saying the dream he and the guys have cherished since the draw was recorded. I think maybe from tomorrow we’ll be more aware of what we’ve done.