‘It’s been 13 years’: AC Milan, as Jeremy Menez shines, end long wait for chance at Coppa Italia
Jeremy Menez ended an 11-month goal drought with a double as AC Milan booked their first Coppa Italia (Italian Cup) final in 13 years with a 5-0 rout of third division Alessandria on Tuesday.
Milan, 6-0 winners on aggregate, last featured in the cup final in 2003 when they won it for the fifth time.
After a comprehensive victory which included a double from centre-back Alessio Romagnoli and a late goal from on-loan Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli, the Rossoneri are now expected to meet Juventus in the May 21 final at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.
Holders Juventus travel to Inter Milan on Wednesday, three days after outclassing Roberto Mancini’s men 2-0 in Turin to boost their Serie A title bid, and with a comfortable 3-0 cushion from the first leg.
Milan manager Sinisa Mihajlovic praised both Menez and Balotelli, saying they would “be useful to us in the run-in”.
“Mission complete,” Mihajlovic told Rai Sport. “It was crucial for us to secure a place in the final and win with a big margin.
“We’re happy, it’s been 13 years and we’ve achieved one of our objectives of the season, although we’ll obviously be looking to also win the final.”
Menez emerged to become one of Milan’s most valuable players when he joined the struggling Serie A giants from Paris Saint-Germain in 2014, only to be sidelined with injury at the end of last season.
The 28-year-old returned to Mihajlovic’s side recently with a series of cameo substitute appearances, but capitalised on his first start for AC Milan since April 2015 to underline his attacking credentials in timely fashion as they look to secure a top three finish this season.
Alessandria headed to the San Siro with a sizeable travelling support but their dream of a fairytale final with Juventus was compounded from the 20th minute onwards.
Menez broke the deadlock in clinical fashion when he collected a pass inside the area to beat Gianmarco Vannucchi with a low angled strike.
Milan doubled their lead only four minutes later when Romagnoli tapped the ball home from a corner that had been headed towards the back post by Milan midfielder Juraj Kucka.
Milan put the tie beyond reach six minutes before half-time when Menez struck Andrea Poli’s delivery first time past Vannucchi after Keisuke Honda’s clever ball on the right.
Menez was replaced by Carlos Bacca with 15 minutes remaining, the Frenchman leaving the pitch to an ovation.
Alessandria thought they had reduced the deficit soon after but Mattia De Sciglio produced a spectacular clearance inches from the goalline after a shot had trickled under Christian Abbiati and beyond the goalkeeper’s reach.
Two minutes later, Romagnoli had his second from a near carbon copy of his first goal, the defender firing home at the back post from a corner to leave a desperate Vannucchi pushing the ball out of the net.
Bacca should have had Milan’s fifth when he was sent clear by Honda’s through ball, but despite having time and space, the Colombian contrived to shoot wide.
But as Alessandria tired, Balotelli punished the visitors when he collected Honda’s ball to power down the middle and fire through Vannucchi’s legs.
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Published: March 2, 2016 04:00 AM