Inter Milan's unbeaten record this season was almost ended by third-division Pordenone in the Coppa Italia on Tuesday night, only for a dramatic penalty shootout ended in the Serie A side's favour.
Backed by over 4,000 fans who had made the trip to Milan from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the third-tier side -- who ridiculed themselves in the run-up to the game by expressing pride in never having played higher than the third division of Italian football -- took the Nerazzurri to extra-time and penalties, and almost snatched an historic victory after a goalless draw in the round of 16.
Inter twice had to convert penalties to avoid elimination, with Mauro Icardi and Matias Vecino both holding their nerve, before Daniele Padelli saved Pordenone's seventh penalty and Yuto Nagatomo slotted home the winner to make it 5-4.
"To be honest, it was way too difficult for us tonight compared to how it should have been," Padelli told RAI television. "Before the game, we certainly didn't get our approach wrong, but we clearly underestimated it too much at times and we only just got away with it.
"We'll learn from this and not repeat this again."
Padelli prevented what would have been a fairy tale for the Lega Pro team, whose Facebook page had been building up to the biggest game in the club's history by making fun of their role as rank outsiders.
"Compliments to them -- my wife's Friulian and I know how much it meant to them -- it's amazing to see all the fans they have brought here," Padelli added. "I wish them with all my heart that they get promotion to Serie B."
Inter coach Luciano Spalletti felt his players had not heeded his prematch warning of how risky the game could become, admitting that he was to blame for not being clear enough.
"We found ourselves in difficulty because Pordenone had quality in midfield and we were unable to get our foot on the ball and we started to get a bit confused," said Spalletti. "Games like this then get hard to resolve psychologically, and they start to gain courage -- I know how games like these go.
"This is a sign that the coach didn't do his job well. We were below our usual standards so my warning clearly didn't get through as I'd hoped it would."
"Even though we didn't play a great game, we must pay compliments to Pordenone because they really deserve it."
Inter, who lead Serie A by a point from Napoli and two from Juventus, will face the winner of AC Milan and Hellas Verona, who meet also at San Siro on Wednesday night, in the quarterfinal.