Inter Milan began the season with three wins and a loss, but had looked shaky at points in all four matches. The first Derby della Madonnina of the season looked like an early chance for Inter to establish a footing in Serie A, but instead quickly turned into a pitfall that could have lasting repercussions on the season. A brace from Rafael Leao and a goal from Olivier Giroud were enough to overcome Marcelo Brozovic’s opener and Edin Dzeko’s late comeback bid, leaving Interisti with more questions than answers early on in the campaign.
Nominally the home team, AC Milan went into the match without a handful of players. Rade Krunic, Alessandro Florenzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Ante Rebic all missed the match with various fitness issues. A front three of Leao, Giroud, and Junior Messias were supported by new signing Charles De Ketelaere in the midfield alongside Isamel Bennacer and Sandro Tonali.
Simone Inaghi sent out his Inter team with only a few changes. With Romelu Lukaku still unfit, Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa started together in attack. They were supported by the usual midfield three of Nicolo Barella, Brozovic, and Hakan Calhanoglu. On the left side, Matteo Darmian started over Federico Dimarco with Denzel Dumfries on the right. The usual back three of Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij, and Alessandro Bastoni started in front of Samir Handanovic’s goal. Deadline week signing Francesco Acerbi started the match on the bench.
MILAN (4-2-3-1): Maignan; Calabria, Kalulu, Tomori, Theo; Tonali, Bennacer; Messias, De Ketelaere, Leao; Giroud.
INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Skriniar, de Vrij, Bastoni; Dumfries, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Darmian; Lautaro, Correa.
The match kicked off as a cagey affair, as most derbies do. Both sides exchanged shots, but nothing extremely dangerous until Inter found the breakthrough goal on 20 minutes. Lautaro held up the ball with a great show of balance with his back to goal, drawing in the Milan defense just past the center circle long enough to lay the ball off for Correa to give to Brozovic, who ran free into the Milan box and rolled home a shot past Mike Maignan for a 1-0 lead.
MARCELO BROZOVIĆ OPENS THE SCORING!— UCL on Paramount+ ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 3, 2022
Lautaro Martínez's hold up play in the buildup. pic.twitter.com/U5h0HL3Iqp
After such a goal, it would be characteristic of Inter in past seasons to ratchet up the tempo with Milan on the back foot, looking for a second goal. This season’s Inter so far has not had that kind of bite. Milan answered back with heavy pressing and a high tempo. Inter could not bring the ball under control in buildup, allowing wave after wave of Milan attack spurred from losing possession.
It was only a matter of time before these slices through the Inter midfield and attack brought the hosts level. They did so seven minutes after Inter’s goal, as an errant and hurried Hakan pass went straight to the feet of Tonali. The Italian drove into Inter’s box, laying off for Leao, who made no mistake past Handanovic’s far post.
Still meekly avoiding giving up a second goal, Inter were able to ride their luck and make it into halftime with little more than a sniff of a second goal. Milan had answered, and answered strongly.
The same lifeless Inter that limped off the pitch after the first 45 slunk back onto the field of play with little improvement. It took just eight minutes for Milan to find the go ahead goal, with Leao playing a low cross to an inexplicably unmarked Giroud who could not miss with that much time and space in the Inter box.
Leao finished off the rapid fire double six minutes later, slicing through the Inter defense with a smooth dribble to slide his shot under Handanovic for a massive 3-1 lead. Inter could have been down by more at this point, and were lucky that they were not.
After waiting way too ling to change the team, Inzaghi began his changes after the 60 minute mark. A more proactive manager would have likely made changes before this. He sent on Henrikh Mhkitaryan, Federico Dimarco, and Edin Dzeko to attempt to dig out of this massive self-dug hole.
It was through one of the substitutions that a consolation goal did come. Three minutes after his inclusion, Dzeko thrashed home a low cross from Darmian to put the match a 3-2. With 23 minutes to go, Inter had a chance to snag at least a point out of a match that they deserved much less in.
As Inter pushed for a third, it quickly appeared the changes made for the second goal were too little too late. With Maignan making masterful saves on great chances from Lautaro and Hakan, the Milan defense held firm and saw off the match in a professional manner. This is something we have yet to see from Inter in their two bigger matches, both of which have now been losses.
Handanovic - 4: Inter knows that their keeper can’t face shots, but consistently leave attackers unmarked with their captain. It was like shooting fish in a barrel for Milan. Andre Onana can’t do worse, surely.
Skriniar - 4.5: Left on an island to be put through the spin cycle by Leao. Mistakes and slow reactions aplenty.
de Vrij - 3: Has reverted back to the shell of himself that he was late last season. Has no awareness and no reaction speed. Looking like center back version of Handanovic.
Bastoni - 4: Could barely even possess the ball, let alone pass it or defend in front of it. No confidence or direction.
Darmian - 5.5: So slow on his off side. He is a right wingback, not a left wingback. However, he will continue to be subjected to this out of position play because Inter could not provide Inzaghi with a real alternative to Dimarco, who is the only other option on the left with Gosens in whatever this funk of his is. Dimarco and Darmian will swap starts intermittently, but until something clicks with Gosens, Darmian will be forced to play with his back mostly to goal because he is not left footed. Credit for the assist in spite of everything, though.
Calhanoglu - 4: Looked like a deer in headlights, something he didn’t resemble in last season’s derbies. Lost the ball for the Leao equalizer and then disappeared. Like the rest of the squad, he needs some confidence.
Brozovic - 6: Got the opener and tried to make things connect between defense and attack. However, when everyone around you seems to give up, it is hard to do anything.
Barella - 3: We’ve seen him retreat into the world in his head a few times in the past year, but none worse than today. An absolute nonfactor. No motivation. How have some of the most aggressive players in this team regressed to this?
Dumfries - 4: Lost his battle with Theo and let it get to his head. Picked up a yellow that was clearly instigated by Milan’s left back and was never able to get in the match.
Lautaro - 5.5: Channeled his inner Lukaku for the first goal, but could not get anything going after that. Had little chance to get involved because the ball couldn’t even reach him.
Correa - 4: It may be physically impossible for him to have multiple good matches in a row. Nonexistent after the assist that was created by Lautaro.
Mhkitaryan - 6: The first real impact he’s made in an Inter shirt. He helped create Dzeko’s goal with a nice pre-assist. Maybe he can be a creative answer moving forward.
Dimarco - 6: Better than Bastoni on the day, but not a permanent fixture at center back.
Dzeko - 6.5: Provided an actual spark in attack, but could not rally the rest of the troops to an equalizer. Perhaps things would have been different if Inzaghi’s first subs came closer to halftime.
D’Ambrosio/Gosens - N/A
Inzaghi - 1: Getting up for a derby has never been an issue for Inter. It was an issue in this one and is up to the manager. If he can’t set up a team that is prepared to face their city rivals, that is a troubling sign. Did not even try to salvage the match until it went to garbage time at 3-1. Absolutely shameful. He has a lot to learn and even more to fix.
Perhaps a change in approach in Wednesday’s Champions League opener against Bayern Munich can be the first step in stabilizing Inter’s season. Showing some of the complacent starters that they are not guaranteed to be permanent fixtures in the lineup and giving some chances to fresh faces like Onana and Kristjan Asllani who are surely hungry for a chance to prove themselves could ignite something in this team. A result against the perennial German champions would surely provide a huge boost and cool Inzaghi’s seat.
As always, forza Inter!