Milan Derby a Tale of Two Halves

AC Milan’s Balotelli stymied repeatedly by Inter’s Handanovic

By Andrea Lorini
Epoch Times Staff
Created: February 24, 2013 Last Updated: February 25, 2013
Related articles: Sports » Football (Soccer)
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Inter’s Ezequiel Schelotto (L) challenges for the ball with AC Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy in the Milan derby played on Feb. 24. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images)

Inter’s Ezequiel Schelotto (L) challenges for the ball with AC Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy in the Milan derby played on Feb. 24. (Giuseppe Cacace/AFP/Getty Images)

The 180th Milan derby played at the San Siro in front of over 70,000 spectators ended in a 1–1 draw on Sunday as Inter equalized in the second half after AC Milan took the lead in the first.

Milan, who defeated Barcelona 2–0 in Champions League last week, dominated the first half and took the lead in the 21st minute with a wonderful goal from the “Pharaoh” Stephan El Shaarawi.

Inter returned to the field determined and compact, and got level in the 26th minute of the second half with a header from 23 year-old ex-Atalanta player Ezequiel Schelotto. The youngster was in tears after his first goal of the season.

“I think this draw was the right result. Milan played a great first half, but we were able to return, wanting to recover, and then we finished better. And thanks to the formidable interventions of [Samir] Handanovic,” said Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni to Sky.

“Our goalkeeper put on a stunning performance,” Stramaccioni said. Smiling, Handanovic said, “The saves are all complicated, there are no saves harder than others.”

Milan striker Mario Balotelli didn’t score despite two golden opportunities in the first half thanks to Handanovic, the star of the evening.

“Do not forget that he is 22 years old and was playing for the first time against his former team, the one in which he grew up,” said AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri. “It was normal that Mario could feel the pressure, but it was very good, he did not react. I am very happy.”

With Balotelli and El Shaarawi up front, and just behind them Kevin-Prince Boateng, Milan showed an explosive trident. Ignazio Abate on the right wing offered great initiative.

On the left Mattia De Sciglio is proving to be a wonderful surprise in Italian football. Only 21 years old, not even a year in Serie A, he is unrivaled and dominated a distracted and submissive Yuto Nagatomo. The Japanese redeemed himself only in the second half, providing the assist for the head of Schelotto, who earned Inter the draw.

Milan’s midfield benefited from the withdrawn position of the former Viola Riccardo Montolivo, who sent an impressive number of balls with a high success rate. His direct opponent, the Uruguayan Walter Gargano, made life even easier for Milan. Dazed and confused for most of the match, he lost a lot of balls, triggering Milan’s counterattacks that made the hearts of Inter’s fans rise up in their throats.

Stramaccioni pulled a surprise using playmaker Ricardo Gabriel Alvarez in the beginning together with Antonio Cassano and Rodrigo Palacio. But none of them could replace the pragmatic nature of the offensive bomber Diego Milito. Ten days after his terrible accident, his absence is felt more and more.

Milan Steamroller

Inter started well. They pressurized the Milan defense. Fredy Guarin and Alvarez gave quality support to the duo Cassano-Palacio and for the first 15 minutes Stramaccioni’s team was more resourceful and effective.

But it didn’t last long. Milan’s steamroller set off soon and blunted the initial sparks of Inter and took over the game. At first, Balotelli in the 15th minute didn’t convert a great opportunity to score, trying to control a cross from the left from De Sciglio.

Six minutes later came the Pharaoh’s masterpiece. Primed in the area by a perfectly weighted pass from Boateng, El Shaarawi, very quickly anticipated the return of the defender and stuck the ball into the net.

Inter got confused. The game plan was off, the midfield collapsed, and Milan took the advantage. Only the impassable Javier Zanetti held well in one-on-one battles, but could not contain alone the Milan attack, which broke through on the left with embarrassing ease. Inter looked scared.

Balotelli called on Handanovic to make two more saves. First in the 26th minute with a powerful header at close range, the Slovenian goalkeeper parried in two stages. In the 40th minute, Handanovic exceeded himself again, rejecting a Balotelli chance on a free kick.

Milan did a lot of running and spent lots of energy, but they appeared much more compact and precise.

Inter Revival

In the second half, Inter emerged tactically more ordered and less fragile on the wings; the team found “brio” in the game and began to trouble Milan’s goalkeeper.

In the 54th minute, Christian Abbiati made a great save as Guarin was served by a great cross from Palacio. Inter gained mental strength and moved forward with more conviction, taking advantage of Milan’s decline.

The equalizer came in the 71st minute when the substitute Schelotto, left alone in the area, took a cross from Nagatomo and headed into the corner to the left of Abbiati.

The final minutes saw Milan press forward. The team didn’t accept the draw, but could not find the victory. Inter didn’t have great scoring chances, but fought with a lot of heart until the draw finally arrived.

Serie A still has three matches to play from the 26th round. Bologna and Fiorentina will play Tuesday. Lazio will play Monday at home against Pescara. Meanwhile, Juventus is enjoying the 3–0 victory over Siena and is at the top of the standings, seven points ahead of Napoli, which faces a difficult away match against Udinese on Monday.

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