Heading into round 36, the Nerazzurri were hoping to capitalize on their final three matches if they had any chance for European competition next season. Inter would face Milan as visitors for the first Derby della Madonnina of 2014. While this version may lack the intensity and perhaps quality of the derbies of yesteryear, with European competition and city bragging rights on the line, there was still a lot at stake.
Although this version of the Derby della Madonnina may be missing some of the past star power, with President Thohir announcing midweek that this would be Zanetti's last season as a player (as he transitions into a management position next year), Interisti were hoping to watch "Il Capitano" don the Nerazzurri colors in what would be his last derby.
Official Lineups from the Inter site:
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Ranocchia, Samuel, Rolando; Jonathan, Hernanes, Cambiasso, Kovacic, Nagatomo; Palacio, Icardi
[Note: Samuel and Rolando served their yellow card accumulation suspension last round and were available for selection. Jonathan and Alvarez were also available after recovering from injuries].
Substitutes: Castellazzi, Carrizo, Zanetti, Andreolli, Campagnaro, D'Ambrosio, Alvarez, Guarin, Kuzmanovic, Taider, Botta, Milito
Manager: Walter Mazzarri
MILAN (4-2-3-1): Abbiati; De Sciglio, Mexes, Rami, Constant; De Jong, Montolivo; Poli, Kakà, Taarabt; Balotelli
Substitutes: Amelia, Gabriel, Zapata, Abate, Bonera, Muntari, Honda, Essien, Emanuelson, Robinho, Pazzini, El Shaarawy
Manager: Clarence Seedorf
Officials: Bergonzi, Giallatini, Dobosz, Iannello, Damato, Ciampi
(Please click here for the Live Match Thread and comments).
While some Interisti were hopeful that Zanetti would start his last Derby della Madonnina match Mazzarri went with the same 3-5-2 formation with Handanovic in goal; Ranocchia, Samuel, and Rolando in a three man defense; the five man midfield consisted of Jonathan, Hernanes, Cambiasso, Kovacic, and Nagatomo; and Palacio and Icardi in attack.
Both sides came out attacking and it was apparent that both clubs wanted the win. Pride aside, city bragging rights and European competition were on the line.
It was a cagey first few moments where both Inter and Milan had chances at goal. Balotelli tried his hand at goal but Handanovic quickly dealt with it in the 6th minute.
Nagatomo moved with ease right by De Sciglio in the 19th minute but Abbiati snuffed out the goal scoring opportunity meant for Palacio.
In the 23rd minute, Icardi was incorrectly called offside while Kovacic tried to give Palacio an offensive opportunity at goal.
Inter had taken control after a few Milan chances early on but midway through the first half, the Rossoneri began to pepper the Nerazzurri's goal with successive attempts culminating with Kaka's strike on goal which was deflected by the woodwork.
The first half drew to a close with a 0-0 score line.
While Inter had absorbed Milan's increasing attack toward the end of the first half, the Nerazzurri came out of the gates in the second half trying to open up the score sheet with an off target attempt by Icardi (4').
The Nerazzurri offensive attack was short-lived as the Rossoneri once again continued to apply offensive pressure ultimately culminating in a home side goal in the 20th minute of the second half by De Jong's header.
Mazzarri made a quick substitution after the Milan header and Cambiasso left to make way for Guarin in the 25th minute. The other two Inter substitutes were made in the 34th minute as Alvarez came on for Jonathan and Milito on for Icardi in the 37th.
While the Nerazzurri offense seemed to show some signs of life in response to Milan's goal, the intensity seemed to fizzle and unfortunately for Inter supporters, the game would end in favor of their cross town rivals.
Today's Derby della Madonnina was far from the stellar performances of years past but to add insult to injury for Interisti watching worldwide, not only did they have to suffer a loss at the hands of their city rivals but left on the bench was Inter legend, Zanetti. In his last derby, "Il Capitano" did not play which for many was an incredibly disrespectful gesture considering Zanetti is arguably one of the greatest players to have donned the Nerazzurri colors.
While Mazzarri is directly responsible for team selection and exclusion, Zanetti's impending retirement was announced midweek by new owner and President, Erick Thohir.
According to Inter's official website, President Thohir made the following statements midweek :
“…he’s going to be part of the management. The captain and I also have an understanding that in the last few games it’s very important that we get into Europe.” (April 29, 2014)
“The captain will be part of the club. As I keep saying, we want to focus on the last three games we have. I met Zanetti yesterday and we spoke about the fact that the team needs to focus on getting as many points as we can…” (April 30, 2014)
The purposeful exclusion of Zanetti during his last Derby della Madonnina seemed to exact more outrage than the loss itself. Commentators, pundits, and fans around the world, regardless of club affiliation seemed incensed by the act of exclusion. While the new regime may understandably want its own players and to "transition" out the Senatori, it is disrespectful not to pay respect to one of the stalwarts of football, let alone Italian football. Zanetti has won a multitude of trophies during his tenure at Inter (one Champions League, five Scudetto, and four Coppa Italia trophies) and is one of the greatest Inter players, (if not greatest), to have represented the Nerazzurri. To sit him on the bench is an embarrassment to the Inter legend and is a slap in the face in trying to maintain any semblance of an Inter legacy.
The loss and Zanetti's exclusion will only serve to create unnecessary distractions for Inter as they look towards trying to secure Europa league competition next season.
Inter currently sit in 5th with 57 points, four points behind 4th placed Fiorentina. Torino is in 6th placed with 55 points; and Parma and Milan with 54 points sit in 7th and 8th place respectively. The Nerazzurri face Lazio at home and Chievo away in their final two matches of the season.
AC Milan 1-0 Inter
First half: N/A
Second half: De Jong (20')