Karma, karma, karma.
For the third time since this summer, Inter and Milan met in a full game.
For the third time, Inter were considered the underdog.
This summer, Inter were considered the team that had to prove that they were the still the Italian Champs. They said that Milan was revitalized under their new rookie coach who was going to do a "Pep". Consider that Betfair had Milan as favorites.
They said that we were weaker without Ibrahimovic. They said we have too many new players.
Lippi said so, after all – right before he pegged Juve for the title - or have we forgotten?
In September, it was because Milan crushed Siena – the first game of the season and Inter started slowly with a 1-1 draw with Bari. Many around these parts were posting that it's "only Inter" and that Inter wouldn't be in the "drivers seat" for the Scudetto this season.
Today, it was that Milan had found it’s form and Inter had suffered from injuries and a second straight draw with Bari. The media said that we have a few excellent players and many average, but nothing inbetween. According to several at the Milan Offsides, we were due an "asskicking" and Milan was going to give it to us.
Last summer it didn’t matter that we were the returning Italian Champs.
Last September, it didn’t matter that we had installed a vital piece of the team in Wesley Sneijder, those new players from the summer added a scary level of depth and that player for player - Inter just has more talent.
Today, it didn’t matter that we are good enough for the top of the table and getting players back from injury – read as: we are getting stronger.
For the third time, they were wrong. For the third time, we beat them convincingly. For the third time, the lopsided score flattered them.
My Inter Players of the Game – and there are a lot of them in a game like this are Pandev and the entire defence represented here by Julio Cesar:
More after the break.
This game didn’t start at 2:45 pm EST. It started on January 15th when Milan attempted and succeeded in changing the date of their Coppa Italia game against Udinese to next week and Fiorentina - Milan to next month. Why would Milan do such a thing? Easy answer – they know that they don’t have the strength of squad to play both games full out and have a good chance to the Derby as well. It’s complete conjecture and Milan supporters have told me that Milan wouldn’t have fielded the same players in both games and that this is a dead issue.
Horse hockey. If it was a dead issue then why move the game? If it was a dead issue, then play and shut up. As I said, I don’t think that Milan have the squad to make a reasonable showing in the Coppa and in the Derby in the same week. Personally, I don’t think the FIGC think so either – and they desperately needed an anti – Inter (look for Roma to get a lot of Calcio hype pretty soon in pink newspapers and English language websites - these guys were hyping Milan hard for this game). I think - more conjecture here - Mourinho’s "Zeru Tituli” last season hurt them right where they live and want to make sure that they make a decent run at something this season.
Milan got their way – again. They get to play their more important game first and the Coppa afterwards – the day before our game with Juventus, where the famously terrible Meazza field will be nice and torn up. I am sure that all medical bills will be sent to the Capital for the PM's consideration and amusement.
Once all the politicking stopped and the game mercifully began, we were the best team in the first 30 minutes. We were up 1-0 after a hell of a pass from Pandev to Milito by way of Abate, whose deflection of the ball kept Milito from being called offsides, in my opinion.
Sneijder, who had a wicked shot in the first minutes that shocked the crowd and Dida and was without a doubt in my mind the most dangerous man on the field for either team, was sent off after 30 minutes – straight red.
Here’s what happened. At about 25ish minutes into the game and Inter threatening the ball was passed to Sneijder who was hanging out in his usual spot to the left of center outside the penalty area. The referee, who was out of position, got in the way of Sneijder getting to the ball. Sneijder, as one can imagine, had some choice words for the ref. Fast forward a few minutes and Lucio was streaking up the field in a patented run by him when he was nudged a little from what looked like Ambrosini, but I’m not really sure even after all the replays. Anyway, to me, it looked like he slipped on the famously terrible field mentioned above because it seemed like he was going to get up and continue running. Anyway he received a caution for simulation (which is technically the right punishment if it was simulation) – which I thought was harsh since Boriello and Ronaldinho (twice) had to be waved up by the ref. Sneijder clapped sarcastically at the yellow card and was captured on video saying, at the very least, “Bravo”.
Was it dumb move in both instances? Yes. Did he deserve 2 cautions total from both incidents? Yes. If he didn’t get a caution from the former, did he deserve a straight red for the latter? No, not if Totti can get away with a caution for “Go f___ yourself.” The whole incident with both Lucio and Sneijder was ludicrous. Ronaldinho and Boriello would both take at least one more dive each and receive no caution for either. Boriello would also yell at the ref for a corner.
Anyway, play continued. Space opened up and there was some end to end action but it was mostly in our end of the field. The next incident would involve Muntari and a viciously late tackle on Gattuso, he of the viciously late tackle on Sneijder from the last Derby. Muntari got a deserved caution for his tackle, but again I was left wondering why Ronaldinho would also tackle late from behind on Maicon and receive nothing.
The “controversy” of this game – because all of the above wasn’t already, right? – would be when the ball hits Maicon’s hand in the box. That’s right it was hit into his hand, as opposed to Lucio who would, at the end of the game, move his hand into the path of the ball and rightly be cautioned – and us rightly penalized – for the play. The ball was in front of Maicon and Ronaldinho, who was behind him, hit the ball into Maicon's hand without Maicon even seeing it. Folks, as I have said countless times here, handling the ball isn’t illegal unless it’s intentional – which it clearly wasn’t here. This was no penalty.
I don’t understand why the “controversy” wasn’t the Abate grabbing Pandev in the area and throwing him down. But that’s just me…
Later in the game, it was Inter under siege – this is why the whole defence is collectively part of my Players of the Match. We were under siege for almost a half hour. Zero goals. Maicon pushing the ball forward on a counter attack put himself in a position to be fouled – lightly to be sure, I am certain that I saw him drag his foot to ensure contact with Favalli – and Pandev made a beautiful goal from a free kick which left Dida inexplicably rooted to the spot. Maybe he saw it late, maybe he thought that it was over the bar. I don’t know and I really don’t care. I thought the game was lost when Sneijder went out. I didn’t react to much after that until Pandev scored, I was so sure of 3 points lost. Only when Pandev hit the post did I react to something before the second goal. Macion would elicit another reaction from me after the goal, when he took a beautiful shot that just got trapped between Dida's hand and the ground without Dida ever seeing it.
Some moviola that Johonna found for us:
Stats Home Team First
Shots (on Goal) 16(6) 19(4)
Fouls 17 22
Corner Kicks 2 11
Offsides 4 0
Time of Possession 33% 67%
Yellow Cards 2 3
Red Cards 2 0
Saves 4 4
Before the match I posted some stats I dug up a couple of weeks ago and updated for the Derby:
Penalties +/-: +1
Red cards +/-: +2
Yellow cards +/-: +7
Penalties +/-: +6
Red cards +/-: even
Yellow cards +/-: +14
Let’s see how the trends match up. Did Milan have the edge in penalty kicks, today? Yep. Did we have the edge in red cards in our favor? Nope. Did Milan have the edge in Yellow cards? The answer is no, even if I score Lucio’s second yellow as a yellow, which wouldn’t be official. So the season’s tendencies hold for Milan’s penalties, but the tendency of our opponents fouling themselves out of the game (even though Milan had more fouls called against them) didn’t.
Cesar: I just thought that Cesar was unbelievable today. He had good position on some good shots, he stopped Ronaldinho’s penalty cold and he was a little lucky. I can’t ask for anything more from my Keeper than a shut out. 7.5
Maicon: Maicon and Zanetti worked like a well oiled machine switching back and forth and causing all kinds of havoc for Milan who repeatedly tried to get through that flank. It didn’t work, even after Ronaldinho took out Maicon from the back after Maicon won possession. He even managed to work his way forward and scare the crap out of Dida with a shot late in the game. 7.5
Lucio: When the focus of the other team is one man, it makes the defenses job easy. Milan was trying like hell to get the ball to Boriello. Lucio did what he was hired to do – read the game and intercept passes to the striker. He also pushed up a little – which earned him a harsh yellow which would prove his undoing later and for the next game. 7.5
Samuel: Borriello came into this game and thought that he was going to muscle our center backs around like he’s been doing lately. I wonder what he thought of his rude awakening. There is no way that he was going to push his way through The Wall. Not considering the picture of him I used from the Siena game. Solid, solid, solid – shut out, shut out, shut out. 7.5
Santon: Ohhh, people, you don’t know how much I have wanted to write that name on these stupid little reports. Did he play a great game? Nope. Did he look a little rusty? Yep. Did he coordinate with Muntari well? Yep. Did he pressure the attacking wing into making several bad crosses? Yep. Did he allow the attacking wing to cut into the area? Nope. Good boy! 7.0
Zanetti: People have said that I give Javier too much leeway and grade him generously. I am going to do it again. He works marvelously with Maicon and he nigh impossible to get the ball away from when he wins it. He also made several Milan players look stupid – you know, those technically wonderful players he wasn’t supposed to be able to cover. 7.0
Cambiasso: It makes my heart so happy to see Cambiasso and Sneijder on the field at the same time. I can’t believe how much it’s going to bother me to not see it for at least the next game or two for something so silly. They really compliment each other so well. I thought Cambiasso looked rusty, but I still think he did okay. 6.5
Muntari: You know, I just think that Muntari and Santon work well together. Not great like Maicon and Zanetti, but better than Chivu and “the left midfielder of the week” did in the first half of the season. I know no one here loves Muntari like I do, but I really believe that there needs to be some one on the field that can kick ass and scare people a little. This is a contact sport and fear is your friend. 6.5
Sneijder: At the time of his sending off he was the best player on the field by a country mile. He took 2 shots that had Dida crap a brick into his pants – and did really fantastic, I have to say, in blocking the second, 1v1 shot. The applause thing was dumb, but I did agree with the sentiment. Here’s the thing – the more he plays, the better we do. And he gets injured too easily to waste his healthy days not playing. On the other hand, he’ll get a nice rest for Inter - Napoli if he’s gone for 2 games. With Sneijder in the game we are a ruthless killing machine. Without him, we struggle with creativity. 8.0, minus 1.5 for being a dumbass = 6.5
Milito: I might have said this before but, I know that Milito has his critics here and I am not saying that I don’t agree with a lot of what they say. But the effort that he puts into every game and the striker’s goals that he scores are unbelievable. I love it. And he had a great game today; he deserved the standing ovation he got. 7.5
Pandev: We gave up a lot when we sold Ibrahimovic. The biggest thing that we gave up was creativity – which we didn’t have a lot of to begin with. We also gave up a lot of height up front. Pandev with Sneijder gets us some of that creativity up front back. He had a hand in every goal we scored today. Is it too early to really love this season’s mercato? 8.0
Motta: I thought that Motta did fine when he came in. It was the perfect substitution at the perfect time. The midfield is the first step in the defence – which is why I don’t think the 4231 is for us. N/A
Mario: It’s a little weird that the only game that Mario hasn’t really played well for us is the Derby. He came in today as a forward but his job was to play back and retrieve balls cleared from the back and try to do something with it to threaten Milan a little and go through the effort of getting the ball back and then resetting their offence. Mission accomplished. N/A
Cordoba: Came in really late to clog the midfield and defence and ice the game. It kinda worked, but the really impressive thing is that the vet didn’t balk. He just came in and was happy to be part of the win. God, I love this team. N/A
Mourinho: I have mentioned that I don’t really give Mourinho a score unless I think he did something that changed the game for or against us. This week, he did three things that I think are absolute genius - for this game. 1. He went back to the 4312 when he had the personnel to do so. I think it says a lot about him that he can change when he sees something isn’t working. 2. He started Santon on the outside instead of a combo of Samuel and Cordoba. It was the right move and the kid looked like he was full of confidence at the end of the match switching back and forth with Muntari. 3. He wasn’t afraid to let the team play defence. We covered up Ronaldinho with a combo of Maicon and Zanetti. We covered up Boriello with Lucio and Samuel. We covered Beckham with Santon and Muntari. We covered Pirlo with Sneijder and Cambiasso. We didn’t try to play defence with the attack; we just went at them smart, fast and as hard as we could.
This post is a bit long I know, but this was a big game and I think it deserves some thought. I also want to make up for last week.
1. I don’t want to say what I was thinking as I watched the final whistle blow, because the Calcio Gods hate hubris. I am just going to say that I am starting to believe. I urge no one to say this sentiment out loud. It’s still only January, jeez.
2. Anyone who thinks that this team would do just as well with Mancini as with Mourinho isn’t paying attention. This team has a lot more… something. They are big, brass and need to be carried in a wheelbarrow.
3. Mourinho has met another feat that Mancini had earlier accomplished in yet another category – a sweep the Derby in a season.
4. As much as I respect Milan – I was one of the very few who said that this is still a top 4 team after we beat them in September and they had that terrible run early on – I think that they are only starting to respect us now. I really think that in some way they are still living in the ‘90s. No judgment on their supporters yet. Let’s see how they react to this game.
5. Looking back at our roster from 3 years ago. It doesn’t look like the same team. We look leaner, less defensive and we look like we are built for a tactical purpose now. Not that I think or thought that Mancini couldn’t do the job coaching, but I think that he lacked in team organization. This is clearly a strength in Mourinho. I think as a player and strategy/tactical manager he is unbelievable. I think he wisely delegates to position coaches on the training ground.
6. Another mercato like the one we just had and we are going to scare a lot of people who still don’t take us very seriously. We might even get them to call us by our real name… naw, now I am asking for too much.
7. Does anyone else wonder if we can start a “B” team and put them in Serie B or the Lega Pro and get the young guys some game time a la Spain. I think that if Serie A is going to break away from Serie B and Lega Pro, it should be an option. I would watch those games…
8. We are a gritty, gritty team. This kind of team wins leagues. Does it win Champion Leagues? I don’t think so. I think teams with more magic than we do win Champions Leagues. I think that we have a long way to go to make that kind of magic.
9. For those who don't know, not counting this one, the last 12 Derbies went 6-6. The one before that was a draw.
10. I am more than a little curious about the Coppa game against Juventus midweek. How do they appoach this? How do we approach this? Is this one too many competitions for the regulars and just platoon out the Primavera? I think that Inter - Juventus is an interesting story that I might explore a little on Tuesday ahead of Johonna's sure to be fabulous game preview.