Atop the tallest spire of Milan’s cathedral sits a statue of the virgin Mary, her gaze fixed upon a Po valley split between the supporters of two giants in Italian football: A.C. Milan and Inter Milan. When these teams meet twice a year at the San Siro, the winning players symbolically join la Madonnina at the city’s highest point. They, adored by their followers as if sprung from the womb of Christianity’s mother themselves, are kings of the city.
In a game that showed nearly even odds, the red and black side should have been the favorites. First in the league, officially the “home” side and with exciting young talents like Pato, Boateng, and Emanuelson mixed in with sturdy vetarans, all three points were surely theirs for the taking. Instead, the transfer drama surrounding Pato’s possible move to PSG created extra tension before the match (not to mention his dip in form and seeming lack of passion on the field – possibly refocused on his girlfriend, Barbara Berlusconi, daughter of Silvio and VP of the club). But it wasn’t just distractions picking at Milan, all credit must go to the blue and blacks from Inter, who’ve been on the rise after a torrid start to the season.
The first half saw Milan consistently pressing , with Ibrahimavich dropping behind Pato and collecting the ball, while letting the very quick and skilled Emanuelson overlap into forward positions (the young dutchman generally plays on the left, but was here being used as a center attacking midfielder). Emanuelson was everywhere in the attacking half of the field, working hard to find space and only misplacing one pass in the first 45 minutes. But Milan could not find a way to goal, with Pato missing a decent chance and only Inter having a real shot – and that against the run of play.
Inter did create some danger down the right wing, where the combination of Zanetti, Maicon and Alvarez worked nicely formed one-two passes to pull Thiago Silva out of position (but what an amazing centerback the Milan man is, and partnered with Nesta…a sturdy pairing). But there was to be no score in the first half, and Inter would surely need to make adjustments if they were to properly challenge for the win.
Oddly, Milan were the side to change, slipping into a 4-4-2 and moving Emanuelson out to the right. The dutch/surinam player then disappeared for the remainder of the game as Inter turned up the pressure.
It was Milito who had the breakthrough right after the start of the second half. Il principe always looked a threat to score if given the chance, and when it was there he took it, collecting the ball just outside the penalty box, settling sweetly and slotting home against the opposite inside post. His balance was perfection and the finish a thing of beauty. From then on Milan looked as dysfunctional as the pregame headlines suggested, while Inter were the team rising from the ashes, pushing toward the top of the league. Inter pressed and pressed looking for a second goal, and Milan couldn’t put together a proper attacking movement for the remainder of the game – save for a brief flash created by 19 yr-old El Shaarawy (of Italian/Egyptian parentage) who replaced the ineffectual Pato with ten minutes to go.
Inter ran out Sneijder for a bit at the end along with Forlan, both of whom are just back from injury. Milan countered with Seedorf and Robinho, but ultimately 35 yr-old Seedorf was completely owned by 38 yr-old Zanetti, and Robinho has stopped being a threat in front of goal. 1-0 to the visitors, Juventus leap ahead of Milan into first, and Inter continue to push toward a Champions League spot.