Inter’s long-awaited return to the Champions League semifinals has been one to remember so far. The Nerazzurri earned a crucial 2-0 advantage from leg one of the European edition of the Derby della Madonnina, roaring out of the gates with goals in the 8th and 11th minutes from the veteran duo of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Edin Dzeko. While the chances were to make it an even more one-sided tie and this is far from over, a two-goal lead is nothing to scoff at and gives Inter a bit of breathing room ahead of leg two. Plus, it’s always nice to beat Milan.
Simone Inzaghi made 2 big choices in the starting eleven, giving the nod to Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan over Romelu Lukaku and Marcelo Brozovic. Other than those two moves it was as expected from the Nerazzurri. Milan, meanwhile, was without Rafael Leao who couldn’t even make the bench due to injury.
Amidst an incredible atmosphere at a San Siro that hasn’t seen this type of moment in far too long, Inter came out of the gates red-hot and got off to a dream start with Edin Dzeko’s 8th-minute opener. The Bosnian volleyed a Hakan Calhanoglu corner kick into the top corner to break the ice and repay Inzaghi’s confidence in starting him.
“A GOAL WORTHY OF THE MOMENT!”— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 10, 2023
37-year-old Edin Džeko with a stunning finish. pic.twitter.com/RpbKtJiTcS
Inter was far from done, however, and doubled its lead only three minutes later via Mkhitaryan, who found himself in on goal after a Dimarco through ball and made no mistake from close range.
TWO GOALS IN THREE MINUTES.— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) May 10, 2023
INTER ARE FLYING. pic.twitter.com/9K6yD4wZsu
Milan begin to control a bit of possession but couldn’t find any chances. Inter seemed to have a golden opportunity to make it 3-0 when Lautaro drew a penalty kick in the 31st minute when Kjaer pulled him down but a VAR review made the referee change his mind and wave off the call. That was the last major action of the first half, which ended with Inter comfortably dominating both the scoreboard and stats sheet. The Nerazzurri tallied 11 shots, 3 on target, from 40% possession while Milan managed just 5 off-target attempts. Inter did, however, taper off as the half wore on as it focused more on controlling the tempo than adding to its lead.
Milan came out of the interval much improved and created a handful of half-chances in the opening minutes. Inter had the first real chance of the second half, but Mike Maignan did admirably well to stop a one-on-one with Dzeko in the 53rd minute. Both managers went to their benches as the half progressed, with Milan introducing Origi and Thiaw while Inzaghi brought on the likes of Brozovic, Lukaku, and de Vrij. The Rossoneri’s moves almost paid off immediately as Origi helped set up Tonali at the top of the box but the Italian’s effort whizzed into the bottom of the post and out. Milan continued to build its presence in the final third, but once again, nothing came of their efforts. Inter was content with its 2-goal lead as well, leading to a rather low-key final thirty minutes. By the time the final whistle rolled around, Inter had edged the expected goals battle 2.12-1.06 and outshot Milan 16 (5 on target) to 13 (2), all despite not reaching its top gear since Mkhitaryan bagged the 2-0 goal.
Onana - 7: Only had 2 saves to make but did so superbly. Became the first Inter keeper to have 7 clean sheets in a UCL campaign as well.
Bastoni - 7.5: Classic Bastoni. Won 5 duels, made 3 clearances, completed 10 long balls, and led Inter in touches and passes.
Acerbi - 6.5: A usually no-fuss outing from the veteran, who managed 6 clearances, 5 duels won, and accurate 2 long palls.
Darmian - 6: Didn’t have too much to do without Leao, although Origi gave him a few troubles once he came on and he was dribbled past on five occasions. The Italian did tally 2 clearances, 2 blocked shots, and 2 interceptions, though, so not bad overall.
Dimarco - 6.5: Assisted Mkhitaryan’s strike but didn’t do much else, ending the evening with only 30 touches (11th on Inter) and 9 accurate passes.
Mkhitaryan - 7.5 (Man of the Match): Continues to age like fine wine. Scored with a stellar finish, had 1 key pass, a 95% passing rate, 2 accurate long balls, and 6 duels won.
Calhanoglu - 7: Sent in a pin-point corner to set up Dzeko’s goal, came close to one of his own if not for the post, and added on 2 key passes and 3 duels won.
Barella - 6.5: A busy showing from the Italian, with 8 duels contested, 3 tackles, and one clearance, although he wasn’t as effective on the ball.
Dumfries - 5.5: Not Dumfries’ best showing, losing possession 14 times (2nd most on Inter), making 0 crosses, and a 63% passing rate, though he was physically up for the duel against Theo Hernandez, going into 18 duels.
Lautaro - 6.5: Put in a boatload of work off the ball, winning 7 duels, making 2 clearances, 3 interceptions, and 5 tackles. Only managed one shot, however, and went down far too easily on the penalty incident and lost a good chance in the process looking for a foul.
Dzeko - 7: Rolled back the years with a powerful volley to open the scoring, and added on with 1 key pass and 8 duels won. Almost had a brace as well, if not for Maignan’s rapid reflexes.
Inzaghi - 7: It’s a bit disappointing that Inter’s lead only stood at 2 goals but that’s to the immense credit of Inzgahi, who set the team up perfectly to dominate Milan. Even his continued refusal to start Lukaku and Lautaro together paid off with a sublime Dzeko showing, and it was the same for the Mkhitaryan over Brozovic gamble. The only qualm is that Inzaghi waited a bit long to introduce Lukaku and seemed perhaps a little too content with the 2-0 scoreline with Milan reeling and missing key pieces, but as long as Inter gets the job done in leg 2, that’s beside the point.
Inter hosts Sassuolo in Serie A action Saturday before the second leg, officially Inter’s “home” game, next Tuesday at the same time and same place.