Morata brace drives Juventus 3-0 past Inter in Coppa Italia

Turin, Jan 28 (IANS) Alvaro Morata fired a brace as Juventus took firm control of their Coppa Italia semi-final tie against Inter Milan after a 3-0 victory in the first leg at the Juventus Stadium.

Juventus on Wednesday night got the better of a typically feisty Derby d’Italia football contest with Morata’s 36th minute opener from the penalty spot, awarded for Jeison Murillo’s tug on Juan Cuadrado, coming courtesy of the hosts’ first shot on target.

After notching his maiden strike since October 4 against Bologna, the Spanish forward netted another less than half an hour later before Paulo Dybala kept up his irresistible form in front of goal to sweep home a third, putting his side firmly in the driving seat for the second leg at the San Siro on March 2.

A bright start for Juventus immediately saw Morata running with purpose at Inter’s defence before laying off to Kwadwo Asamoah, whose effort flew just off target.

On the quarter-hour mark, referee Paolo Tagliavento waved away Bianconeri claims that Cuadrado’s cross had brushed the arm of Gary Medel inside the penalty area.

Far from letting their heads drop following the decision, the hosts continued to take the game to their opponents and so nearly found the breakthrough in the 20th minute, when Cuadrado skipped past a couple of markers and drilled whiskers wide of the post.

Adem Ljajic was looking the liveliest of the visitors’ forward options and the Serb began the move which came on the back of the visitors’ first real foray forward, laying the ball off for Danilo D’Ambrosio to cross for Jonathan Biabiany, only for the Frenchman to glance wide of Neto’s goal.

That would be as good as it got for Roberto Mancini’s men in the opening period, however, and, just four minutes later, the hosts were celebrating the opener.

Morata’s tireless running throughout the half was causing the Nerazzurri rearguard regular problems, none more so when, on 36 minutes, the Spaniard combined brilliantly with Cuadrado in the box. The neat one-two was all too much for Colombian Murillo, whose foul on his compatriot led Tagliavento to point to the spot.

Up stepped Morata, who lashed an unstoppable drive past Samir Handanovic to end his 20-game barren run in front of goal and give his team a deserved lead at the interval.

The pattern of play in the second period drew distinct parallels with the first for the paucity of efforts on target, that is until the 63rd minute, when Morata demonstrated his predatory instincts to double the hosts’ lead.

After Mario Mandzukic had seen his initial shot blocked, the ball found itself at the feet of the 23-year-old, who spun on a sixpence before firing another bullet of a strike past a helpless Handanovic.

Moments later though, having had very little to do in the previous two-thirds of the tie, Neto kept concentration levels high to pluck Murillo’s dangerous header out of the air.

That was the Inter man’s last action of the tie as the Nerazzurri defender was given his marching orders after bringing down Cuadrado once again, this time for a free-kick, which Pogba curled just around the post.

Keen to cash in on their numerical advantage, the Bianconeri continued to surge forwards in search of another goal and in the 78th minute, Morata came close to celebrate a hat-trick when he smashed over the bar with only the keeper to beat after collecting Pogba’s pinpoint cross from the right.

Later, Dybala buried a late third goal with an excellent first-time shot, having replaced Mandzukic up front just moments beforehand as Massimilano Allegri’s men won 3-0.

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