With Milan dropping points in their last two matches and Internazionale catching up to them in the second half of the season, this was the match to watch out for this weekend. This match would go on to decide the outcome of the Scudetto this year. Milan thrashed Inter 3-0 to convincingly state their credentials as potential winners of their 18th Scudetto. With this victory Milan have sent out a warning to the rest of the league. With the double now complete over Inter, the bragging rights are back with Milan, at least until the next time the two teams cross paths.
Milan – Counter attacking at its very best
Milan pegged back Inter in the very first minute of the game with a superb goal from Pato. Van Bommel was back at the center of the midfield and along with him was Seedorf. Playing a withdrawn “Pirlo-role“, Seedorf was back to his best, just like the away leg at White Hart Lane against Tottenham. Both of the teams started off in similar formations; where Allegri went in for a 4-3-1-2, Leonardo took a more defensive approach in 4-2-1-3.
The very first goal of the game stunned Inter as it was scored when the game was barely a minute old. Milan had a numerical advantage in the midfield compared to Inter, and made it count. Van Bommel was able to sit back deep and destroy any sort of passing that Inter threatened to develop. Gattuso was incredibly agile in the first half. Firstly, he was playing a touch higher than usual, marking and hacking down Motta on more than one occasion. But as the game progressed, he too dropped down to take special care of Eto’o, one of Inter’s wide forwards for this game. Seedorf played, only as he could and even though he showed a trick or two with the ball, was unwittingly allowed to move forward as Leonardo decided to go for a man-to-man marking. That left huge spaces for him to move into deep in Inter half and play passes with Boateng- who deserves a special mention here for the fact that he was playing the trequistera role, almost like a third forward in the absence of the suspended Ibrahimovic.
In the absence of Ibrahimovic, which turned out to be blessing in disguise, Milan fielded two very dynamic and pacy forwards in the form of Robinho and fellow-countrymen Pato. Their relative short height meant that Abbiati did not have the luxury to play long balls forward. And so Milan relied on a more direct passing approach and they also played on the break. The absence of Ibrahimovic served Milan well as instead of a single marksman, and aerial ball distributor, they had two of the best mobile players in the world.
In the end, Cassano shot himself in the foot unnecessarily as he was sent off soon after scoring. Taking off one’s shirt after scoring is a bookable offense nowadays, and Cassano should have known better. His second yellow followed soon afterwards, when he fouled Cordoba.
Inter-repeatedly losing possession
Inter started off as the more aggressive team coming into the derby, but their initial formation gave them away. Instead of going for three wide forwards with Sneijder playing in the hole, Inter would have been served better if Pandev would have started from the bench and they have more meat in the midfield. Milan effectively exploited this rare tactical fault and they broke up almost every play Inter managed to create.
Needless to say, Inter’s only chances came from the wings, as Milan’s frailty on the wings is well documented. How Eto’o missed a sitter from hardly 4 yards out is a question which will haunt the Cameroonian for a long time. He was effectively put out of the game by Gattuso, who tracked back on his every move. With Cambiasso and Motta seeing less of the ball and Inter deploying a high line of defense, it became increasingly difficult to pass the ball to Sneijder, who was seen moments later punching the ground in pure frustration. Sneijder was comfortably tucked away in Van Bommel’s pocket almost throughout the match with the Dutchman intent on giving nothing away. Sneijder’s ploy to displace Van Bommel from the “Makelele role” proved futile as he stayed put when Sneijder tracked back. And most tellingly, when Inter gained possession of the ball, they lost territorial advantage.
Inter’s defense was caught off-guard on more than one occasion when the Brazilian duo of Pato and Robinho steamed forward. When Zanetti and Maicon charged forward to support play, they failed to track back and it often became a 2-on-2 situation at the back. Inter are fortunate that most of those opportunities were goofed up by Robinho, who was intent on showing more flair than creativity. A red card of Chivu and subsequently down to ten men, Inter retreated into a shell and Milan’s hitherto invisible fullbacks, Zambrotta and Abate suddenly found their running shoes. The second goal pushed Inter to the brink and after that they were more intent on playing out the time and minimizing the damage incurred. This defensive mentality cost Inter once more before the end of the game when Cassano scored from the spot. Inter’s best player of the night was undoubtedly their goalkeeper, Julio Cesar, who single-handedly kept Inter into the game by repeatedly denying Robinho.
Pato and Robinho – A Match Made In Heaven
The Brazilian was back at his best and his combination with Robinho clicked from the word go. The swift passing between the two was a treat to watch and it showed that they have gelled well in the absence of their top marksman, Ibrahimovic. Pato had one of those nights when everything he touched turned into gold. This season has been a typical one for Pato – his injuries have blighted his chances of playing regularly but when he did play, more often than not it has been shock and awe. Another important aspect that caught Inter off-guard was the number of through balls that were played to the forward two. The moves usually started off with Van Bommel breaking up play in deep midfield. From there on, he was able to pass wide to either Gattuso or Seedorf, from where the attacks originated.
Allegri won the tactical battle over Leonardo and showed just why Galliani had shown the faith to replace Leonardo with him. Leonardo has turned Inter’s season around ever since his arrival and this hiccup should not be seen as such a serious blight in an otherwise fairytale Inter career. With this victory, Milan can move forward to once more reclaim the Scudetto after a stupendously long gap while Inter will need to put this behind them and try their luck on the European front, when Schalke come knocking.