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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - RIYADH: Inter manager Simone Inzaghi lauded Lautaro Martinez as “a leader” after the club captain’s injury-time winner sealed a dramatic EA SPORTS FC Supercup 1-0 triumph against Napoli at a sold-out Al-Awwal Park in Riyadh on Monday night.
With the final heading to a penalty shootout after 90 minutes, Martinez struck a magical 21st goal of the season just as the stadium announcer said there would be five minutes of stoppage time.
The Argentinian found space in the box to whip home Benjamin Pavard’s cross from the right and spark wild celebrations among the Inter personnel on the pitch, in the dugout and their fans in the stands.
Martinez was so delighted that he peeled off his top and ran all the way to the Inter fans behind the goal at the other end of the stadium. To the joy of the fans, his teammates quickly followed.
Speaking at the post-final press conference, Inzaghi said: “He must continue like this, he has had an excellent six months. He helped his teammates — he is a leader and a captain. He’s doing a great job, and he must continue to do so.
“We have many fans here in Saudi and I am glad that they are happy tonight, moreover we have our fans from Milan here tonight and I think it was really nice of Martinez and the bench to go and celebrate the goal with them.”
Inter’s success makes it the third year in a row that they have won the Supercup, and the second successive time winning the trophy in Riyadh after last year’s 3-0 victory over AC Milan. For reigning Serie A champions Napoli, however, who played the final half-hour of the final with 10 men after Giovanni Simeone was sent off, Inter’s late winner brought immense heartbreak.
Inzaghi said: “It was not an easy game. Let’s not forget we were playing against the champions, they fought till the end and then lost a final after 90 minutes, so they will certainly be disappointed. As for us, we remained on the ball and concentrated and in the end, we found our way to the goal that allowed us to win an important trophy. We won and we are very happy.”
The Inter manager also paid tribute to Italian football legend Gigi Riva, who died on Monday aged 79. With 35 goals in 42 appearances between 1965 and 1974, Riva is still Italy’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Inzaghi said: “We knew about the passing at the end of the first half. I was lucky enough to know him, and to have conversations with him. He was a giant and his absence will be felt.”
The 36th edition of the historic Supercoppa Italiana marked the fourth time that the prestigious event has been held in Saudi Arabia. The competition, incorporated in 1988 as a two-team match between the winners of Serie A and the Coppa Italia, has also previously been held in the US, Libya, China and Qatar.
This year’s Super Cup is the first time it has been a four-team competition, with Inter, the Coppa Italia winners, reaching the final by beating Lazio 3-0 at Al-Awwal Park on Friday. Serie A winners Napoli earned their spot by defeating Fiorentina by the same scoreline at the same venue the night before.
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