The 100th anniversary of the ‘Derby della Madonna’ was supposed to be marked by the returning genius of Ronaldinho. The BrazilianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recent revival has coincided with the Rossoneri marking a run which is unrivalled in Serie A.
Meanwhile Inter have been floundering in the league. The Nerazzurri followers have become accustomed to their team coming from behind to resurrect games: a last minute winner at home to Sienna and coming from behind to snatch a draw in Bari.
Jose MourinhoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s teams are renowned as cohesive units, boasting a watertight defence and rarely surrendering leading positions. But by all accounts in recent weeks Inter have appeared rattled.
Before tonightÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s match the gap between the two city rivals was six points with Milan holding a game in hand. Any suggestion that Inter would crumble under the immense pressure of a heaving San Siro were rubbished ten minutes into the game.
Leonardo was dealt the cruel blow of losing defensive linchpin, Alessandro Nestra, prior to the match. In came the ageing Favalli at the heart of MilanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s defence.
Immediately Inter threatened the away rearguard. Wesley Sneijder and Goran Pandev both warmed the finger tips of Dida before Diego Milito ignited the atmosphere in the stadium.
Captain Zanetti looped a ball over the Milan left back Abate. The defenderÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inaccurate header to Dida fell into the path of the alert Milito. The Argentine rifled a left-footed drive into the net to grab the initiative for the Nerazzuri.
The infliction of an early goal appeared to stun Milan. MourinhoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s side piled forward, showing great zealous and effectively steam rolling the opposition.
However mid-way through the first half Sneijder handed the visitors a lifeline. Lucio was cautioned for simulation. Sneijder sarcastically applauded the decision of the referee and received a straight red for his ill-advised descent.
The complexion of the match altered significantly.
Inter were now content to defend in numbers, packing their midfield with ball winners while affording Milan possession for large periods of the game. However architects Pirlo and Ronaldinho were unable to devise a route through the compact defence of the opposition.
The Brazilian maestro tamely claimed handball when the ball appeared to bounce of MaiconÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hand in the box. Pirlo blasted a free kick into the wall but there was no alarming threat emanating from Leonard’s side.
The second half continued in the same vein. Determined work from David Beckham on the right wing saw the English midfielder manufacture a delicious ball for Boriello. The striker nodded over from close range.
With the Rossoneri throwing men forward, inevitable holes began to appear in their defence. Inter Milan exploited these gaps and ruthlessly snatched the crucial second goal on the break.
A counter attack culminated in a free kick on the edge of DidaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s area. Pandev swept the ball over the wall and past the motionless Brazilian keeper to send the stands into pandemonium.
It proved the final nail in the Milanese coffin.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was introduced and the Dutch substitute spiralled on a lobbed ball and unleashed a volley towards Julio Caesar who palmed the ball wide.
When Lucio was penalised for handling the ball in his penalty area in the first minute of added time Ronaldinho was presented with the chance to ensure a tense final few minutes.
His low kick was saved by Cesar to crush the hopes of the most optimistic Milan fans. Mourinho waltzed along the touchline, triumphantly saluting the crowd.
Inter now lead AC Milan by nine points and are a further 11 points ahead of Roma.
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