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Inter keep treble hopes alive

ROME, April 14- Inter Milan kept their treble hopes alive with a 1-0 victory away to Fiorentina in the Italian Cup semi-final, second leg on Tuesday to reach May's final 2-0 on aggregate.

Samuel Eto’o scored the only goal of the game 12 minutes into the second half to ensure Inter reached their fifth Italian Cup final in six years.

If AS Roma manage to hold onto their 2-0 first-leg lead over Udinese next week, it will also be the fifth final between the two sides in those last six years.

Inter assistant coach Daniele Bernazzani told Rai TV he was satisfied.

"We played the game we needed to, we didn’t take many risks, we defended in the first half and Eto’o’s goal finished the tie," he said.

"In these months we’re playing for everything but fortunately that means we’re improving.

"I’d give anything to be in this situation."

Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli said the goal had knocked the stuffing out of his team.

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"We conceded a goal and we lost confidence, that’s the gist of it. It’s a shame because we were in the game," he said.

"We went for an offside that we didn’t need to and we were punished."

With his side through to the Champions League semi-finals and battling Roma and AC Milan for the Serie A title, Inter coach Jose Mourinho perhaps gave a clear indication of where his priorities lie by resting several star players.

Top scorer Diego Milito, centre-back Walter Samuel, midfield enforcer Esteban Cambiasso and playmaker Wesley Sneijder all found themselves on the bench as teenage striker Mario Balotelli was amongst those given a run-out.

And it was Balotelli that had the first clear cut chance of the game on 21 minutes as he dispossessed Lorenzo De Silvestri following the right-back’s poor touch and ran in from the left but, under pressure, dragged his shot wide of the far post with his weaker left foot.

Just four minutes later Fiorentina had an even better opportunity as Alberto Gilardino acrobatically brought down a long ball into the box, turned and shot between goalkeeper Julio Cesar’s legs but centre-back Lucio was there to clear the ball off the line.

More last-ditch defending saved Inter again on the half-hour mark as Cristiano Zanetti’s clever ball into the box found Gilardino unmarked but Cristian Chivu came across from left-back to fling himself in front of the striker’s shot to block it.

Four minutes after the break Balotelli showed just what a talent he is with a rasping drive from 30 yards, when he was afforded too much time and space to set his sights, but Sebastien Frey tipped it around the post.

And on 57 minutes La Viola had a mountain to climb after Eto’o fired the visitors ahead.

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Fiorentina’s defence were caught pushing up and ball watching on the edge of their box as Thiago Motta clipped a delightful ball over the top and Eto’o ran onto it, brought the ball down with his right and then fired a left-footer into the top corner, sending Frey the wrong way with what seemed like a skewed effort.

Due to the away goal, Fiorentina now needed three strikes of their own to progress and the fight seemed to seep away from them as Inter easily controlled the remainder of the match.

Gilardino had one last chance in injury time but with only Julio Cesar to beat he went for a volley with his wrong foot and tamely prodded the ball wide.

Mourinho even had the luxury of ringing the changes to ensure as many of his top players were given as much rest as possible ahead of Friday’s league clash against Juventus.

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