Inter has made it 2 for 2 in the 2023 edition of the Derby della Madonnina. This one wasn’t quite as flashy as the 3-0 thrashing we were witnesses to a few weeks ago, but the end result (and main protagonist) was the same. Lautaro Martinez continued to haunt the Rossoneri with the game-winner, assisted by Hakan Calhanoglu that was all too happy to make his old team pay.
Despite rumors that Romelu Lukaku would get a rare start, Simone Inzaghi went with the lineup that has become Inter’s first-choice team this season. Milan Skriniar returned from suspension to start amidst contract drama (the Curva Nord released a statement supporting him prematch, for what it’s worth), while Marcelo Brozovic and Lukaku made the bench. Milan, on the other hand, made wholesale changes. Stefano Pioli scrapped the 4-2-3-1 to play a 3-5-2 for the first time in his tenure, with Rafael Leao dropped to the bench and winger Junior Messias starting in midfield.
Inter came out of the gates firing, forcing Ciprian Tătăruşanu to paw a close-range Lautaro effort over the goal six minutes in. El Toro was only getting started and directed a header whizzing wide minutes later. Inter continued to hold the upper hand throughout the half but couldn’t find anything more than a handful of half chances until the 34th minute. Lautaro, who’d been giving Milan constant headaches, finally got his goal with a bullet header from Hakan Calhanoglu’s pin-point corner delivery.
CAPTAIN MARTINEZ WITH HIS 12 SERIE A GOAL OF THE SEASON!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) February 5, 2023
Hakan Çalhanoğlu put in on a plate. pic.twitter.com/hC7FOBKBl3
A 1-0 scoreline flattered Milan by the time the interval arrived. The Nerazzurri boasted 74% of possession and outshot a toothless Rossoneri 9-0.
Pioli decided to shake things up at the start of the second half, bringing on the likes of Rafael Leao, Brahim Diaz, and Alexis Saelemakers to wake his team up. Inter, meanwhile, stumbled into a daze as the game wore on and looked sloppy across the entire pitch. Inzaghi brought on some reinforcements of his own in the form of Brozovic, Lukaku, and Robin Gosens, but Inter remained far removed from its first-half pace and was in for a nervy ending.
Ultimately, though, the good guys did enough to get all three points. Despite its ugly second half, Milan wasn’t much better and only managed 4 shots (all off target) in their search for an equalizer that never came.
Onana - 6.5: Didn’t have much of anything to do considering Milan’s complete absence in the final third, but that’s never a bad thing for a goalkeeper.
Bastoni - 7: A great showing from Bastoni on the ball. Had the 3rd most touches on Inter, made 1 key pass, and 6 long balls, along with 6 duels won.
Acerbi - 7.5: The surprise of the season keeps showing why he’s a starter. Won 8 duels, made 4 clearances, 2 interceptions, and completed 4 long balls.
Skriniar - 7: Looked focused and settled amidst all of the drama around his future - which is now confirmed to be in Paris. He notched the most touches on Inter, had a 91% passing rate, made 4 accurate long balls, and won 3 duels.
Dimarco - 6: A quieter outing than usual from Dimarco, who went 0 for 8 on crosses and managed 2 duels won before an early exit for Gosens.
Mkhitaryan - 7: His quality and experience were on full display against Milan. He had a 90% passing rate, 1 key pass, and 4 accurate long balls out of 4, but also showed the defensive side of his game with 5 duels won.
Calhanoglu - 7.5: Another assist against his ex-club with a superb corner kick to go along with 4 key passes, 3 crosses, 3 long balls, and 3 duels won in quite the well-rounded shift.
Barella - 7: Kept Milan’s midfield on their toes and was quite the ball of energy, especially in the first half with 7 duels won.
Darmian - 6: Fared similarity to his wingback partner Dimarco, not able to make much of anything happen in the final third but staying solid defensively all evening.
Lautaro - 8 (Man of the Match): Another superstar showing against Milan. If not for Tatarusanu’s saves and an oh-so-close offside call he could easily have had a hattrick, but one goal will have to suffice.
Dzeko - 6: The Bosnian was a bit on the periphery before his exit for Lukaku, never getting that one chance to make a mark.
Inzaghi - 7: The first half went perfectly to plan but it is somewhat concerning how Inter dropped off so sharply after halftime. A better version of Milan would have made them pay. Inzaghi’s subs were solid, however, and it was good to see Lukaku cause Milan problems in his cameo just like in the good old days.
Unlike derbies of recent seasons, this one had no bearing on the title race (now a one-man sprint to the finish) - Inter remains in 2nd, 13 points behind Napoli. However, the three points were crucial to keeping the Nerazzurri’s grip on a top-four spot secure and it now has a 5-point cushion on Atalanta in 5th.
Next up for Inter is a visit to Sampdoria on Monday.