Antonio Conte rotated slightly, as he did in the previous Coppa fixture against Fiorentina. Aleksandar Kolarov, Ivan Perisic, and Mateo Darmian slotted in for Alessandro Bastoni, Ashley Young, and Achraf Hakimi respectively. Romelu Lukaku got the start upfront along with Alexis Sanchez. Milan meanwhile was without a handful of players. Gianluigi Donnarumma was suspended, while Mario Manduzkic, Sandro Tanoli, Ismael Bennacer, Pierre Kalulu, and Hakan Calhanoglu were out injured.
The derby got off to a free-flowing start, though neither side had a spark in the final third. Inter finally began to put some pressure on Milan by the 20th minute, with Romelu Lukaku leading the charge. He notched two shots from close range, one of which forced an impressive kick save from Ciprian Tătăruşanu. It was Milan who managed to open the scoring, however, naturally thanks to Zlatan. The Swede sent a low drilled effort off the inside of the post from the top of the box in the 30th minute.
The Nerazzurri came closest to a second goal of the match in the 38th minute when Alexis Sanchez had a header cleared off the line. Things got spicy at the end of t half when Lukaku and Ibrahimovic went head-to-head and earned themselves yellows. The confrontation didn’t end there, though, as Lukaku attempted to go after Zlatan in the tunnel. Inter outshot the Rossoneri 8 (2 on target) to 5 (1) and had the edge in possession but it was Milan in front thanks to Zlatan’s individual skill.
Inter came out of the break on the front foot, with Tătăruşanu called into action on multiple occasions. There was no equalizer just yet, though. Instead, Zlatan picked up his second yellow and marching orders in the 58th minute after clipping Kolarov’s heels in midfield. It may have been a little soft, but there was clear intention from the 39-year-old.
Down to ten-men, Milan retreated into a defensive shell and put numbers behind the ball. Perisic came close when he sent a header narrowly over in the 66th minute. Inter would then get a chance from the spot when a sliding Leao clumsily took out Barella on the endline. Referee Paolo Valeri needed VAR but eventually pointed to the spot. Curiously, Valeri suffered a muscular injury and to be “substituted” for Daniele Chiffi in the middle. Lukaku blasted the ensuing spot-kick home.
Inter 1-1 Milan (Romelu Lukaku Penalty) hit with anger pic.twitter.com/ICPqQWG4to— InterComps (@InterComps) January 26, 2021
Inter continued to rack up possession but struggled to find quality looks on goal until late on. In the 89th minute, Lautaro was gifted a loose pass in midfield and went on a driving run to the box, only for Tătăruşanu to come up big once again. The Romanian then somehow pawed away a point-blank Lukaku attempt a minute later. But Tătăruşanu was for once helpless in the 97th minute. Christian Eriksen, an 88th-minute sub, put a perfect freekick into the back of the net and gave Inter derby success in remarkable fashion.
The derby always promises entertainment, and boy did it deliver this time around. Goals, red cards, near-fights, last-minute wondergoal game-winners, this game had it all. And Inter deservedly came out on top. The Nerazzurri a whopping 27 shots and 66% possession, compared to Milan’s 5 shots and 34% of the ball. But the main deciding factor was Zlatan’s dismissal. Inter had controlled possession and shots in the first half as well but still ended up trailing thanks to the Swede’s magic. After he was sent off, the Rossoneri was punchless in the final third, taking a grand total of zero shots and 24% possession in the second period. The seven players with the most touches were all Nerazzuri except for Franck Kessie, while Inter won 52 duels compared to Milan’s 39. Inter was able to throw numbers forward with little fear of retaliation, and though Tătăruşanu put on a masterclass, he was surpassed in the end.
Handanovic - 6: Had very little to do (nothing in fact) after the Milan goal, though he did complete all but 1 of 28 passes. Can’t be blamed for the Milan strike either, as the ball needed to nick off the inside of the post to go in.
Kolarov - 6.5: Once again left a lot to be desired defensively in the derby, this time not closing down Zlatan on the opener. Even so, probably his best game yet in Nerazzurri. Registered six duels won, 7/7 long balls, and 3rd most touches on Inter.
de Vrij - 6.5: Like the rest of the defensive unit, didn’t have much to do. Had 2 interceptions, 6 duels, and a 93% passing accuracy to his name.
Skriniar - 6.5: Even quieter outing for Skriniar, the highlight of which was a 96% passing accuracy. Did a solid job shutting down Rafael Leao.
Perisic - 6: Got into promising positions but lacked a finishing product. Just one of six attempted crosses were accurate, he lost possession 14 times, and tallied the third least touches of outfield starters.
Vidal - 6.5: Continued his improved form with a well-rounded ninety minutes on Tuesday. Won 5 duels, and completed 54/58 passes, including 4/4 long balls.
Brozovic - 6.5: Had little substantial impact despite notching the second most touches on Inter (85). Had success on all 7 attempted long balls and 92% of total passes, but didn’t control the game in the way we’ve seen recently.
Barella - 7: His energy was a constant in the center of the park. Most touches (89), 93% passing rate, and won 8 duels. Barella also drew the penalty for Lukaku’s equalizer thanks to a nifty piece of footwork.
Darmian - 6: Had a few good moments in the final third but wasn’t a consistent threat. Had just 72% passing accuracy prior a halftime exit for Achraf Hakimi. Lost possession nine times even with only 45 minutes played.
Lukaku - 7: His confrontation with Zlatan brought some spice to what ha been a relatively muted derby, and the game never looked the same after (in a good way more or less). Stepped up big on the penalty as well. Unfortunately he’s ruled out for the semifinal thanks to his yellow.
Sanchez - 7: Caused Milan plenty of problems early on, including the below bit of skill against Simon Kjaer. His impact faded as the game wore on, though still ended up with 5 key passes.
Alexis Sanchez humiliating Simon Kjær pic.twitter.com/eeNQorZwNU— InterComps (@InterComps) January 26, 2021
Hakimi - 7: Was a noticable improvement over Darmian. Made three key passes, three crosses, and a passing accuracy of 94%. Picked up a needless yellow deep into stoppage time so is rule out of the semifinal first leg.
Lautaro - 6: Was gifted a chance to make it 2-1 late on but couldb’t beat Milan’s keeper in a one-v-one. Finishing continues to be an issue and his passing rate was 38%, but Lautaro still provided a massive boost to Inter’s attack with 2 key passes.
Eriksen - 9: Had an opportunity to make a real impact, and he sure took it. Impeccable set piece that left Tătăruşanu no chance and gave Inter an escape from extra time. Can he build off this now that Conte has confirmed he’s remaining in Milan for the rest of the season?
Inter gets the second half of its Serie A campaign underway Saturday against Benevento, while the semifinal first leg is scheduled for next week. The Nerazzurri will meet either Juventus or SPAL, but will do so without Lukaku and Hakimi.
See you Saturday.