With both Inter and AC Milan owned by Chinese investors, the Derby Della Madonnina was at the earlier kickoff time in order to tap into the Chinese TV market. Inter were eager to break their two match losing streak with a win in front of their fans, while Milan were pumped to show themselves off to their new owners. In short, this promised to be an exciting game. A game that can be boiled down to a few series of eight minutes.
Stefano Pioli continued with the 4-2-3-1 with a few changes from the previous match. Samir Handanovic had Danilo D’Ambrosio, Gary Medel, Miranda, and Yuto Nagatomo protecting him with Roberto Gagliardini and Geoffrey Kondogbia shielding the back four. Up top was Antonio Candreva, Joao Mario, and Ivan Perisic supporting Mauro Icardi.
With Gagliardini missing the second half of the Sampdoria match and all of the Crotone game it could have been predicted that he would have a little rust and his giveaway led to the first chance of the match. Handanovic had to save from Gerard Deulofeu and after a bit of a scramble in the box Carlos Bacca blazed his shot over the bar. The Inter keeper had to be on his toes again in the 14th minute to keep out Jose Suso shot from distance. In the 34th minute Deulofeu got past Medel and forced Handanovic to charge out to get a hand to the ball. Despite all the work Handa had to do Inter were playing pretty well in the half. They were pressing the Milan backline constantly, forcing them into mistakes, and looking to exploit the Perisic vs. Davide Calabria matchup, resulting in a number of chances and desperate clearances from the Rossoneri.
After that Deulofeu chance came the first key eight minute interval. As time went on Gagliardini returned to the dominant midfielder we know and love and in the 36th minute he dropped a perfect long ball over the top to Candreva who held off Mattia De Sciglio to power the ball across Gianluigi Donnarumma and into the back of the net. Inter were all over their opponents at this point and in the 44th minute the Nerazzurri had doubled their lead. Icardi chested the ball into the path of Perisic who blew past his man and squared the ball in for the Inter captain to top home. This was Icardi’s first goal in a Derby Della Madonnina and it allowed the home side to go into halftime 2-0 up.
Neither side made changes at the break and at the start of the second half it was Inter continuing to display their dominance, showing up first to most of the challenges and creating chances for Icardi, Candreva, and Perisic. Milan were definitely up for a fight though and Perisic and Medel had to be quick to deny chances to Calabria and Bacca. Now there are a few reasons Inter had such control over the match including the energy and tenacity of Kondogbia and Gagliardini, the willingness of Candreva and Perisic to come back and help mark Milan’s wingers (mainly Deelofeu- his speed was their main threat considering that Nagatomo had Suso in his back pocket), the high press on Milan’s backline forcing them to go long to a striker that couldn’t hold up the ball, and the fact that Medel and Miranda had Bacca under lock and key. At least those last two changed in the 75th minute when Gianluca Lapadula was sent on for Sosa, a switch that begins the next key eight minute interval in the match.
With Lapadula on Inter’s center-backs had two strikers to deal with. This meant they couldn’t double up on long balls anymore and that Milan now had a man who could hold the ball up and get his teammates more involved. Montella’s move to send on a striker for a midfielder energized his men, and they pushed forward for an equalizer. Inter either seemed taken back at this fresh determination by their opponents or they were simply willing to sit back and defend their two goal lead. That was a mistake. Pioli realized what was happening and send on Jeison Murillo for Joao Mario to add extra protection to the backline but that just seemed to tell the team that defending deep and just trying to hold on to the lead was a good idea. It wasn’t. That eight minute interval ended in the 83rd minute when Alessio Romagnoli poked home a Suso cross following a corner to cut the deficit in half.
The final seven minutes of regular time saw Inter clinging to their lead, defending deep and wasting time on a number of occasions. Then the 90 minutes expired and the 4th official showed 5 minutes of extra time, leading to our final key eight minute interval of the match. In the first minute of extra time Pioli decided to make his final substitution, replacing Candreva with Jonathan Biabiany for some reason-I guess to provide pace on the counter but there really was no Inter counterattacking during extra time. In the 95th minute Manuel Locatelli only received a yellow card for an ugly hack on Nagatomo’s knee. Only down a goal Milan kept pushing for an equalizer but couldn’t by the 95th minute but that didn’t matter play continued. The 96th minute hit and Milan were still pushing for an equalizer and play continued. Then the away side got a corner and Orsato let them take it. During that corner Handanovic got caught out, Cristian Zapata was able to put the ball in to tie up the match in the 97th minute, and immediately following the goal Orsato ended the match. (Ok yeah that was only seven minutes but hey if the referees can play fast and loose with time then so can I.)
First let’s talk about Orsato’s decision about extra time. Did Inter waste time during the match? Absolutely even Handanovic was booked for taking too much time to restart play. That however was filtered into the 5 minutes of extra time. Did Inter waste time during extra time? That is also a yes. Did Inter waste enough time to add two minutes onto the 5 minutes of extra time? I really don’t think so but I could be biased. Also from a practical standpoint it just looks really shady for a referee to add all this time onto the already expired extra time and then end the match as soon as there’s a goal. At least give 10 second after kickoff to make it look like you weren’t just waiting for an equalizer.
Despite whatever grievances Inter fans might have with Orsato (real or imagined), there is still the fact that this side gave up a two goal lead. Pioli’s decision to send on Murillo backfired, he didn’t help out all that much defensively and it made it look like he signed off on the plan to sit deep and try to defend the lead. Inter invited the opposition to break them down and that’s exactly what they did. The home side needed to act like the home side and continue to fight and pressure Milan like they had done for most of the match, not meekly surrender possession and momentum to the visitors. Once again Inter displayed a weak mentality, a problem we had previously thought Pioli had solved but one that has reared its head yet again. With a number of tough matches before the season ends I’m not sure if things will get much better. As Inter fans all we can do is roll with the punches and hope that next year’s Year Zero will be more fruitful than the previous five.