Inzaghi praises Inter fringe players despite Coppa Italia scare

Giuseppe Cottini/Getty Images

Simone Inzaghi praised his Inter players who "play less" despite coming within minutes of being eliminated from the Coppa Italia on Tuesday.

The holders trailed Serie B side Parma 1-0 with just three minutes remaining at San Siro, before Lautaro Martinez equalised and Francesco Acerbi headed in the winner in extra time to save their blushes and send them through to the quarter-finals.

The irony of Acerbi heading in the winner was not lost on Inzaghi after the centre-back's effort against Monza in their previous game was ruled out by the referee, causing consternation among the Inter camp as his whistle meant that the VAR could not intervene on what appeared to be a questionable call.

Inzaghi was not in the mood to dwell on the weekend's 2-2 draw in Serie A, instead praising the players who came in for cup duty and, eventually, delivered.

"The whole world saw what happened in Monza, but we were only interested in this game," the Nerazzurri head coach said. "We were doing fairly well even if we had to move the ball better. Then with their goal it got complicated, but I had an excellent response from those who play less.

"I would have liked to avoid extra time, but last year too with Empoli [3-2 win after extra time] it was difficult."

Inter trailed to a superb strike from substitute Stanko Juric in the 38th minute, and did not have a shot on target until Martinez forced an equaliser in the 88th.

In the second half of extra time, Acerbi reacted to a punched clearance from veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to head the ball over the 44-year-old and into the net.

Parma were the equals of their hosts for large parts of the contest, but Inzaghi insisted he was impressed by his team's effort.

"Those who have played the least have given excellent answers, we must continue like this," he added. "In the Champions League we have gone beyond expectations, in the league we lost points at the start, but there are many games to go."

Romelu Lukaku did not feature, but his coach believes the Belgium striker will have plenty to offer once they can get him fit and playing regularly.

"He remains fundamental for us," Inzaghi said. "He had an injury and had problems managing it. Saturday [v Monza] he was limited by his inflammatory problem. Tomorrow he will continue to rest, then day-by-day we would like to bring him back to the top. If we could have done that before, it would have given us the extra points we are missing."