Inter Milan coach Leonardo has paid tribute to Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o after his goal was enough to put them in the Coppa Italia final.Already 1-0 up over Roma after the first leg of the semi-final in Rome, Inter returned to the San Siro on Wednesday and went a goal ahead when Eto’o was picked out by a Houssine Kharja cross and fired a low shot home.
Marco Borriello scored for Roma with six minutes remaining to ensure a few anxious moments down the stretch, but Inter hung on to secure a berth in the final against Palermo on May 29.
Leonardo credited Vincenzo Montella’s side, but reserved special praise for Eto’o.
“It was so difficult,” Leonardo said. “The first half was played at a slow tempo and after the break we created the chances that allowed us to control and take the lead.”
“This squad worked hard and it was not easy. Eto’o understood the moment the team was going through and has had a marvellous season, as he works for the team.”
Despite many observers seeing Inter’s season as a disappointing one, after they lost their Serie A title to AC Milan and suffering a Champions League quarter-final exit at the hands of Schalke, Leonardo believes a cup win will not ‘save’ their campaign.
Inter have already claimed the Italian Super Cup in August and the Club World Cup in December, but those victories were achieved with Rafael Benitez at the helm.
“Our season does not need saving,” he said. “It has been a tumultuous campaign for the squad with a change of management, so we have to take that into account.”
“I have a rapport of mutual respect with the President and he has always been close to the side, even in difficult moments.”
Montella, meanwhile, felt his side was unlucky to be denied a place in the final and was bemused by the lack of stoppage time allowed.
“There are regrets and we tried until the last second of stoppages,” Montella said.
“Considering there were five substitutions, I’m surprised the referee only gave three minutes.”
“We were unlucky tonight and it’s a pity to lose like this, as we did not deserve to go out. We really wanted to play the final at the Stadio Olimpico.”