The first Derby della Madonnina of the season is always a good measuring point for the two Milanese clubs, especially when it comes as late as November. For Inter, it could have vaulted Inter straight back into the Scudetto dogfight. For Milan, it could have been a match to bury last season’s champions early. In the end, neither team got fully what they wanted, but both will take the result as something to build on for the long season ahead of the clubs.
Due to injuries and suspensions, former Inter boss Stefano Pioli did not have his best Milan side available and had to make do with some replacements. Goalkeeper Mike Maignan has been absent for weeks after wrist surgery, the always dangerous Theo Hernandez missed the match through red card suspension, and Samu Castillejo did not make the bench through injury. Veteran Ciprian Tatarusanu started in goal, Ballo Toure started in place of Hernandez, and Brahim Diaz was forced to play out wide instead of in his preferred trequartista position.
On the other hand, it was all hands on deck for Simone Inzaghi’s side. Hakan Calhanoglu got the nod against his former side and Ivan Perisic returned to play on the left after being rested for the likes of Federico Dimarco against Sheriff Tiraspol on Wednesday in the Champions League. The full strength Nerazzurri looked poised to roll on after hitting a decent run of form with wins against Empoli, Udinese, and Sheriff in previous matches.
MILAN (4-2-3-1): Tatarusanu; Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Ballo-Touré; Tonali, Kessie; Diaz, Krunic, Leao; Ibrahimovic.
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Darmian, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Perisic; Dzeko, Lautaro.
Both teams started the match rather cautiously, not wanting to concede in the opening minutes. This conservative opening was capitalized on by Inter with their press just seven minutes into the contest, as Edin Dzeko and Calhanoglu put pressure on Franck Kessie in his own penalty area, causing Kessie to foul his former teammate Calhanoglu for a penalty. The resulting penalty was converted by none other than the former Milan player, who then celebrated in front of the Milan home crowd, much to their dismay.
Cool. Calm. Collected. ❄️— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) November 7, 2021
Hakan Çalhanoğlu steps up and scores from the spot against his former club pic.twitter.com/UAlfm81ET9
The lead did not last long, however, as a free kick by Sandro Tonali just six minutes later found the head of Inter defender Stefan de Vrij, who looped a mistaken header into his own net for the equalizer. Fikayo Tomori initially celebrated the goal as his own, but replays showed it was the Dutchman who scored in yet another Milan Derby, but into the wrong net this time.
The drama continued ten minutes later, as Matteo Darmian got in on goal behind Ballo Toure, who fouled the Inter wingback in an attempt to recover from the mistake, giving Inter a second penalty in just 26 minutes. Lautaro Martinez stepped up for the penalty, having given the first penalty to Calhanoglu for his storybook start to life on the black and blue side of Milan. Unlike Calhanoglu, Lautaro was not able to convert the spot kick, as Tatarusanu etched his name into derby lore with an impressive diving save.
After the penalty miss, things began to simmer down for the half. Rafael Leao forced Samir Handanovic into a save nine minutes from halftime. The Inter captain allowed a dangerous rebound after the save, but Leao put his second attempt well out of play.
Inter had a couple of late half chances of their own, as a great run and cutback from Alessandro Bastoni found Nicolo Barella unmarked in the Milan penalty area, but the midfielder’s shot was cleared off the goal line by Ballo Toure. Lautaro got a chance to redeem his penalty miss as a knockdown by Dzeko created a shot, but it was put wide to end a half that Inter felt should have been theirs.
Sensing a possible weakness in the Milan backline towards the end of the second half, Inter came out searching for a goal to break the deadlock. Nine minutes into the half, after a series of half chances for Inter, Lautaro found space to turn and run into on the break, creating the space for a shot from distance that was just put off target by a deflection. Shortly after, a Perisic cross found Calhanoglu at the back post, allowing him to whip a dangerous volley cross back across goal in the other direction, narrowly missing the feet of both Dzeko and Lautaro.
In a worrying sight for Interisti, Barella was forced off just after the 60 minute mark with an apparent thigh issue. With the international break looming, hopefully, the issue will be resolved in the coming two weeks.
Just after Arturo Vidal relieved the injured Barella, Zlatan Ibrahimovic nearly curled home a shot after a corner. The effort from the right side of the Inter penalty area did not have enough bend and sailed past the post of Handanovic.
On perhaps the most dangerous chance of the second half for Inter, a cutback from Dzeko found a free Vidal in the Milan penalty area. However, like the Barella chance in the first half, there was one lone Milan body able to stand between a clear Inter shot and Tatarusanu’s goal, blocking both efforts from Vidal. Shortly after, Dzeko was also forced off with an apparent issue, replaced by Joaquin Correa, who has an impressive scoring record against Milan from his time with Lazio.
The final ten minutes of the match were almost entirely Milan’s. A dangerous free kick from Ibrahimovic found its way under both the Inter wall and a “crocodile” positioned Marcelo Brozovic, forcing a save from Handanovic. Seconds later, a cross into the box found Ibrahimovic, who knocked the ball down into the middle of the Inter penalty area, but an onrushing Ismael Bennacer could not keep his shot down.
Two minutes from full time, Milan created their most dangerous chance of the match, as an Alexis Saelemaekers shot from distance careened off of a frozen Handanovic’s post and back into the pack of an onrushing Kessie, who put his shot shockingly wide with no defenders around him.
After both teams missed their biggest chances, there was little time left to create anything. The two teams were forced to walk away with a point after both having clear chances to win the match.
Handanovic - 6: Not at fault for the own goal, but almost at fault for a goal on two occasions with the rebound to Leao and the lack of reaction to the Saelemaekers chance. Lucky the mistakes were not converted into goals.
Bastoni - 7: The best Inter center back on the night. Great with the ball and did well to keep his left side quiet. If Barella had finished that chance, Bastoni would have had a deserved assist.
de Vrij – 5.5: How he managed to nod that own goal towards his net is beyond me. Simple header, very mistimed. Other than that, he kept Ibrahimovic at bay. However, the little mistakes that have creeped into his game this season are a bit worrying.
Skriniar- 6: A standard outing for Inter’s number 37. Defended well and handled the ball well. Missing on the own goal, though.
Perisic - 7: His domination of the left flank continued in this one. His engine never stops in attack or defense. Credit to Antonio Conte for creating a gem and leaving him for Inzaghi.
Calhanoglu - 7.5 (MOTM): The former Milan man was fired up for this one. Worked hard for the team, won the opening penalty, scored it, celebrated it, and put himself firmly into derby history with his celebrations afterward. Played a really good game from start to finish. If he can put this into a run of form, Inter will be cooking.
Brozovic - 6: After a monster performance on Wednesday in the Champions League, Milan managed to silence him. Kept him out of the match for long periods, but Milan’s focus on him allowed Calhanoglu to shine.
Barella - 6.5: Outside of his finishing letting him down, Barella had a decent match. However, he began to tire in the second half and eventually went off with a slight issue. Hopefully, it is just that, slight. Get some rest, Nicolo.
Darmian - 7.5: A close second to Calhanoglu for man of the match, the Milan youth product bossed the right side. He may not be the fastest, but his reading of the game makes up for it as we saw in his run to draw the second penalty. Great performance. Also came off with an apparent fitness issue.
Dzeko - 5.5: Completely marked out of the match, not able to turn and shoot at all. Very quiet and very frustrating performance.
Lautaro - 4.5: Even more frustrating than Dzeko was Lautaro in this one. Missed a penalty and a couple of other chances. His confidence is not there, and Inter really need him to turn it around soon.
Vidal- 5.5: Came on for Barella and had the chance in front of goal, but could not finish. Did not do much after that.
Correa - 5: Eventually paired with Alexis Sanchez, leaving Inter without anyone who could win a header up front. This contributed to the pressure Inter faced, as they could not get the ball away or attack.
Dumfries - 6: Did alright when he came in, but could not cause issues like Darmian was before the substitution. A positive step forward though, hopefully.
Alexis/Dimarco - N/A
Inzaghi - 7: Got the setup and tactics absolutely right. Inter created so many chances and it is not his fault they were wasted. The only issue is that his substitutions came a little later than usual, looking more reactive than proactive as the match got into the latter stages. Seems to have fixed Inter’s defensive solidity, though.
Yet another international break is now upon us. Inter will be back in a couple of weeks for a home showdown against league leaders Napoli. For now, use this time to catch your breath, everyone.