Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi feels that the red card received by striker Romelu Lukaku in this evening’s Coppa Italia match against Juventus was a misunderstanding of the Belgian’s celebration.

Speaking to Italian broadcaster SportMediaset, via FCInterNews, the 46-year-old defended his striker’s celebration as being totally normal for the player, and also reacted positively to his team’s performance in the 1-1 draw.

If the majority of this evening’s Coppa Italia semifinal first leg against Juventus was relatively light on controversy by the standards of the Derby d’Italia fixture, the ending certainly was not.

Nerazzurri striker Lukaku scored a last-gasp equalizer from the penalty spot following a Bremer handball, and the 29-year-old scored in a “silencing the crowd” manner.

The Belgian’s gesture was interpreted as inciting the crowd as he was facing the stand full of Bianconeri supporters, and so referee Davide Massa gave the Nerazzurri striker a yellow card.

Given that Lukaku had already been booked for a lunging tackle on Juventus defender Federico Gatti, he was duly sent off.

This sparked a major scuffle between the two sets of players, and when all was said and done both Inter captain Samir Handanovic and Juventus’s goalscorer on the night Juan Cuadrado were also sent off for their own personal altercation.

Asked what had happened from his perspective, Inter coach Inzaghi explained that “With Lukaku’s celebration there was a misunderstanding, he always celebrates goals that way.”

“Unfortunately, there was a lot of confusion after the incident, it’s never good to see, and it means that we’ll be without two key players for the second leg in Lukaku and Handanovic,” the coach continued.

Asked if he felt that his team had produced a good reaction to their recent poor form, Inzaghi replied “Absolutely, they had a great match.”

“We came to a difficult away stadium, up against an in-form team, and we controlled the match virtually for the whole ninety minutes.”

The coach looked back that “We conceded a goal which definitely should’ve been avoided, but overall the guys did what I asked them to.”

“We sent a positive message after a tough moment, although it’s still only the first leg.”

“At the end of the month we’ll play the return leg at home, it’s a competition that’s extremely important to us and we want to reach the final again,” Inzaghi said.

Asked if Lukaku had appeared shaken up, Inzaghi said that “Yes, it was perceptible.”

“From my perspective, I saw a player who scored, celebrated, and then suddenly everything kicked off,” he added.

“I have to be clear-headed about this, that celebration and the aftermath, from a player who always celebrates in that way, means that I’ll have to do without him, and also Handanovic, for the second leg.”

“It’s not the kind of incident that anyone wants to see in a match that, up until the 94th minute, had been fair and well-conducted.”

Of the defensive breakdown that led to the Bianconeri’s opening goal, Inzaghi said that “We needed to initially step out and close down Rabiot, there were two players who could’ve stopped the cross from coming in.”

“Then we defended too narrowly, and allowed Cuadrado’s shot to go past Handanovic,” he continued.

“We shouldn’t have allowed that goal considering that it came twelve minutes from the end, and prior to it there were few signs of any danger,” the coach said.

“But I’m very satisfied with how my team played, we was an aggressive match at a stadium that’s never easy to play at.”

“The result could have been better, but I’m happy with the performance, my assessment wouldn’t have changed in that respect even if we’d lost,” Inzaghi stressed.

Of the fact that Inter’s recent struggles with finishing when they get in front of goal did seem to continue against the Bianconeri this evening, Inzaghi said that “This has especially been a problem for us in 2023, last year we had the best attack in the league, now the second or third.”

“This has certainly been a problem that’s been hanging over us for the past few matches, we have to work harder and smarter because good performances aren’t enough on their own,” the coach went on.

“We’re playing constantly now, it’s not that often that all of the Coppa Italia semifinals and Champions League quarterfinals pile up in a single month.”

Asked if he hopes that the relationship with the team and the fans can start to be repaired after the recent poor form had led to a more negative atmosphere, Inzaghi responded that “Our fans are unique and unlike any others.”

“On Saturday [against Fiorentina] the entire stadium was behind us until the 95th minute, the Curva Nord in particular kept pushing us on.”

“We’re Inter, and so it’s normal to expect different results.”

“We all expect more and better, but then tonight we showed a great response,” the coach concluded.