High up the list on things that Inter fans try to avoid at all costs are losses to Milan. Luckily enough we had gone for over 4 years since dealing with that unpleasant taste. Saturday, though, dealt us a reminder as to what that feels like, and I’m unsurprised to report that another four years sure would have been nice. Alas, that was not the case and a familiar suspect is to blame, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
It didn’t take long for the scoring to get underway, and the good guys found themselves in an early hole in the 13th minute. Aleksandar Kolarov clumsily tackled Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the box on a counter attack, making no contact with the ball. The Swede had some issues with the penalty, but righted his wrongs, or in this case wronged his rights.
It took less than three minutes for Milan to double it’s lead, again ruthlessly slicing Inter apart.
Zlatan with the quick double in the Milan Derby!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 17, 2020
AC Milan up 2-0 pic.twitter.com/RsLMAduoPb
Inter slowly possessed its way into into the game, and it’s first real look on goal proved a successful one thanks to Romelu Lukaku.
The final fifteen minutes of the half went flying by, quite literally. The wild end-to-end action saw both teams come up with a multitude of half chances, though no one was lethal enough to take advantage. Inter came closest when a wide open Lukaku turned a header inches wide.
The final forty-five was much calmer. Milan sat back to protect its lead, but the Nerazzurri couldn’t take control or penetrate through the visitor’s backline. The shots tally slowly racked up, but the shots on target count barely even twitched. The best chance came in the 60th minute when a chipped Arturo Vidal cross found Achraf Hakimi at the corner of the six-yard-box. The Moroccan put a diving header just wide of the frame.
Things soon got quite chippy, and bodies flew left and right while screams of anguish were heard quite vividly on the broadcast. One such collision occurred in the Milan box. In the 73rd minute Lukaku was played in behind and taken down by Gigi Donnarumma, who swept the Belgian’s feet out from under him. The referee originally pointed to the spot. A VAR check caught that Lukaku was offside in the build-up and ruled out the call. It was controversial, though, because the ball bounced off a Milan player prior to finding Lukaku.
Even as Inter poured more and more numbers forward, the one goal it needed remained excruciatingly missing. Like the first half, Lukaku had another look on goal to close out the period. This time he sent a cheeky back-heel through traffic but directly at Donnarumma from close range. That was the final kick of the first Derby Della Madonnina of 2020/21.
From a lack of a finishing touch in the final third to defensive mistakes abounding at the back, Inter was certainly off its usual game. The Nerazzurri took 19 shots, but only 6 landed on target. That was due in part to the midfield not stretching Milan’s defense enough or pinning in the Rossoneri in its own half. Instead a discombobulated midfield showing led to few penetrative attacks and little for Milan to worry about as long as it stayed compact. There’s no denying that Inter has the midfield personnel to be a dominating force in the center of the park, but whether Conte is using it effectively is very much up for debate.
This has been a less than ideal opening quartet of games. Inter barely beat Fiorentina, thrashed Benevento, though not without some worrying moments, drawn a Lazio side that has lost to Atalanta 4-1 and Sampdoria (!) 3-0, and lost to Milan for the first time since 2016. But before you ring the panic bell, this was quite a difficult schedule. Lazio and Fiorentina have admittedly stumbled so far, but the quality on both team’s is still far from insignificant. Benevento meanwhile looks like the real deal despite being newly promoted, and has picked up a respectable six points from three games. The Milan loss is the one that hurts the most, but is also perhaps the most understandable. Stefano Piolo’s side has beaten Juventus, Atalanta, and Roma since March and is seemingly unstoppable, at least until the squad depth really gets tested.
Even so, the title race is still wide open. All of the top teams have dropped points so far, with Milan the exception. Inter may be all the way down in 6th with seven points, but Atalanta, Juve, and Napoli are all less than two points clear.
Handanovic - 6.5: The Slovenian’s penalty stop broke the record for most spot kick saves, but other than that he had little to do and couldn’t be blamed for either goal.
Kolarov - 5: Kolarov, though, was definitely at fault. From a sloppy tackle to losing his mark, both goals left a lot to be desired. Although he may have experience, the Serbian doesn’t seem to have the necessary quality. Diego Godin, on the other hand...
De Vrij - 6: The Dutchman did the best he could, but was let down by his defensive counterparts. Bastoni could be back as soon as Wednesday, though, so he’s surely breathing a sigh of relief.
D’Ambrosio - 5.5: D’Ambrosio again disappointed, though this time the late clutch goal was nowhere to be seen. Most glaringly, he allowed Rafael Leao time and space to send in a cross on the second Milan goal.
Perisic - 6: The assist on Inter’s sole goal is the Croatian’s only saving grace. Other than that, he again looked a bit out of place at wingback and was invisible in attack all too often.
Vidal - 6: Whether due to heavy legs from international duty or the overall flow of the game, Vidal’s impact was markedly decreased from what we’re used to. He couldn’t even bait any Milan players into reds, so some rest time should be on the cards soon enough.
Barella - 6.5: The young Italian was dealt quite the beating, with a ball to the face and a knee to knee collision being the highlights of his evening. He was still able to put in a solid if unspectacular shift with bonus points for perseverance.
Brozovic - 5.5: Brozovic hasn’t found his form this campaign, and yesterday was no exception. His touches were sparingly scattered throughout the center of the pitch and he had no clear direction to his play. A January exit may be the best option for both player and club, as the Croatian no longer seems mentally at home in the San Siro.
Hakimi - 6.5: Hakimi once again proved his worth thanks to sizzling runs down the right flank, but his search for a third assist of the season was let down by poor finishing.
Lautaro - 6: The Argentine had little impact, quite contrastingly to his form in previous matches. Despite peppering Milan with six shots from varying distances, he never caused any sort of danger, or truthfully, much of anything in the final third.
Lukaku - 7 (Man of the Match): The Belgian missed several chances that he’s scored in the past, but there’s no denying that he showed a fight that wasn’t always there from the rest of the squad.
Eriksen/Sanchez - NA
Conte - 5: Although making just two substitutions could ve excused considering Inter’s depleted bench, there is plenty Conte still needs to answer for. For one, there was no need to wait as long as he did to bring Eriksen (68th) and Sanchez (83rd) on. Neither was able to have much impact in their short cameos, but had they entered at halftime the result could have been rather different. Also causing frustration is Conte’s inability to change from the back-3 system. The personnel available (Kolarov, Ranocchia, De Vrij, D’Ambrosio) was much better suited for a back 4. I’m not paid 12 million a year, though, but surely Conte knows what he’s doing. Right?