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Ronaldo inspires semifinal win at Inter Milan

MILAN — Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to fire Juventus to a 2-1 comeback win over Inter Milan in a hard-fought Coppa Italia semifinal first-leg clash at San Siro on Tuesday.

Lautaro Martínez gave the home side an early lead, but the Portuguese replied with a penalty before pouncing on a defensive mix-up to put the Turin club in front before halftime.

Inter, without suspended top scorer Romelu Lukaku, pushed for an equalizer but couldn’t find a way past 43-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The Italian produced a superb save to deny Matteo Darmian on the 1,100th senior appearance of his career for club and country.

Nine players were booked in a fiery encounter as Andrea Pirlo’s side earned revenge for their 2-0 Serie A defeat in this fixture, known as the “Derby of Italy,” last month.

Juventus, who finished as runners-up last year, host the second leg in Turin on Tuesday, Feb. 9 and the winner will face Napoli or Atalanta in the final.

Inter coach Antonio Conte was without two influential players through suspension in Lukaku and wing-back Achraf Hakimi, but Martinez squeezed a finish past Buffon after nine minutes to give the hosts a perfect start.

However, Ashley Young’s tug on Juan Cuadrado resulted in a penalty following a VAR review, which Ronaldo smashed into the roof of the net.

The striker soon grabbed his second by pouncing on some hesitation between Samir Handanović and Alessandro Bastoni on the edge of the box, pinching the ball and finishing into an unguarded net.

Inter pushed forward after the break, but they were denied by heroic last-ditch defending as Alexis Sánchez’s shot was cleared off the line by Merih Demiral and Buffon showed sharp reflexes to save Darmian’s shot. — Reuters

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