The news of the day is that the Derby di Milano didn’t end with a 2-2 tie, like in the previous two occasions. But it went pretty close to that again, before Inter’s captain Mauro Icardi converted a late penalty for his third personal goal, and secured Nerazzurri‘s second place in the league, just two points behind Napoli.
Maurito had not been scoring any goal – excluding free and penalty kicks – since August 26. He decided to make up for it in the most important of occasions, putting the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma twice, before the penalty conversion completed his tripletta and earned him the right to take the ball home. The Rossoneri coached by Vincenzo Montella bit the dust for the third time in a row and, despite a strong second half in which they managed to equalise Inter’s lead twice, left San Siro with empty hands. They are now 10 points behind their city cousins.
But regardless of the score, spectators at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium who contributed to a record €4.8 million revenue did not leave the stands disappointed – as the derby offered goals, emotions, and an uncertain outcome until the very last second.
To tell the truth, the first half was a pretty sleepy one, and even fans on the stands played it safe: The Derby della Madonnina traditionally begins prior to the opening whistle, when supporters from both sides give their best to come up with the coolest choreography. However, this time they both made it simple.
Nerazzurri die-hard fans from the curva nord (the north stand) displayed a banner asking Fai gol. Fallo per la Nord. (“Score! Do it for the North Stand”) Not sure who the message was for, but their captain certainly got it. From the other side, Milanisti replied with the Latin quote Per Aspera ad Astra (Literally, “Through hardships to the stars” – a pretty appropriate picture of the current status of the Rossoneri, who are evidently still in the hardships phase)
45 minutes of boredom were broken only by a few corner kicks collected by Milan, and a flash that propitiated Icardi’s first goal. After having set the pace with an early shot to hit the crossbar, winger Antonio Candreva did what he is best at – i.e. crossing from the right flank, for the captain of Nerazzurri to seep in through Leonardo Bonucci and Mateo Musacchio, and correct the ball trajectory past Milan’s goal. Rossoneri’s reaction produced only a single shot by a resourceful Fabio Borini deflected by the defense.
An injury occurred to Frank Kessié forced coach Montella to operate his first substitution at half time, and the change proved to be right one. The Diavoli’s trainer sent in Patrick Cutrone and paired him with Andre Silva on the attacking line – enabling Suso to move back from a striker position to an offensive midfielder one.
It took only a few minutes for Milan to cash in on their courageous choice, as Suso – much more comfortable with playing behind the offensive line – set the match ablaze with a perfect left foot shot that caught Samir Handanovic by surprise.
Suso’s equalizer shook both teams, that realized they indeed wanted to win this derby: Like two boxers in a ring, Inter and Milan kept exchanging blows. Another cross by Candreva served Matias Vecino, and the Uruguayan’s conclusion went just short from punishing Donnarumma again. On the other side, Giacomo Bonaventura delivered another shot to keep Handanovic’s gloves warm.
62 minutes into the game, Icardi broke the balance again, hitting with his shin (!) a ball crossed from the left by Ivan Perisic. Perfect timing and a little bit of luck for the Captain of the Nerazzurri, but the way Milan conceded the second goal is a gallery of football horrors – from Lucas Biglia, who lost a seemingly innocuous ball in the midfield area, to Bonucci who once again failed to mark Icardi in the box.
Good enough for Montella that the new disappointment didn’t bring his determination down. His second substitution was Manuel Locatelli for Alessio Romagnoli – a midfielder for a defender, and once again the change earned some quick effects. Borini, inexhaustible yesterday, crossed from the right flank, Cutrone touched it lightly, and Bonaventura caught it. Former Atalanta playmaker’s shot was saved by Handanovic – but then the Slovenian goalie messed up with the ball and pushed it past the goal line himself…
At that point, Nerazzurri’s coach Luciano Spalletti seemed to have understood the trend of the night – hazard pays! – and brought on Italian-Brazilian forward Eder to replace midfielder Borja Valero. Spalletti’s change produced a furious assault, until the very last minute where the true essence of calcio came on stage – from glory to shame in less than a clock round…
Milan’s Ricardo Rodriguez deflected with his body a dangerous shot in the box by Eder, temporarily saving his squad. But then, on the following corner kick, he clumsily grabbed Danilo D’Ambrosio and brought him down – with referee Paolo Tagliavento blowing for the decisive penalty with no hesitation.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history: Tripletta is served for Mauro Icardi, Inter wins 3-2 and give chase to Napoli – and next week the two Serie A pacemakers will face each other at Stadio San Paolo!
Milan’s consolation prize is a better performance than the two previous setback, and a convincing second half. But Montella’s record this season is now 50-50, and the next Europa League match against AEK Athens already looks like a last call for the Neapolitan coach.
SCORERS: 28’ Icardi (I); 56’ Suso (M); 63’ Icardi (I); 80’ Handanovic (I, own goal); 90’ Icardi (I, pen.) 90’
INTER (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; D’Ambrosio, Skriniar, Miranda, Nagatomo; Gagliardini, Borja Valero (85′ Eder); Candreva (73’ Cancelo), Vecino, Perisic; Icardi (93′ Santon). (Padelli, Berni, Ranocchia, Dalbert, Karamoh, Pinamonti). Coach: Spalletti
MILAN (3-5-1-1): G. Donnarumma; Musacchio, Bonucci, Romagnoli (77′ Locatelli); Borini, Kessié (46’ Cutrone), Biglia, Bonaventura, Rodriguez; Suso; André Silva. (Storari, A. Donnarumma, Paletta, Zapata, Calabria, Abate, Gomez, Mauri, Gabbia, Montolivo). Coach: Montella
REFEREE: Mr. Tagliavento from Terni
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Miranda, Vecino, Gagliardini, Perisic, Eder, Icardi (I), Romagnoli, Rodriguez (M)