AC Milan booked a huge 3-0 win over Inter Milan in the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday, beating their city rivals after 90 minutes of scintillating football. The win saw the Rossoneri climb to sixth place in the Serie A standings.
Alex opened the scoring with a powerful header in the first half, and Carlos Bacca and M'Baye Niang scored within four minutes of each other after the break. Just before Bacca's goal, Inter forward Mauro Icardi missed a penalty.
Sunday's derby proved to be a fantastic encounter for neutral fans, as it was filled with great attacking football, rough challenges and plenty of controversy. Inter certainly had their chances, but ultimately, Milan proved to be the more efficient team.
As shared by Squawka Football, Inter manager Roberto Mancini dropped star striker Icardi to the bench and instead opted to field Stevan Jovetic and new signing Eder:
AC Milan XI vs. Inter: Donnarumma; Abate, Alex, Romagnoli, Antonelli; Honda, Kucka, Montolivo, Bonaventura; Niang, Bacca.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 31, 2016
Right from the start, the Derby della Madonnina produced fireworks, with Niang running right at the Inter defence and nearly getting off a shot. Ivan Perisic played in Eder, who could have tried his luck himself but instead failed to find Jovetic.
Eder should have opened the scoring after seven minutes but somehow missed a wide-open header from just five yards out after a superb cross from Juan Jesus. Copa90 thought the new signing looked primed to make life hard on the Rossoneri:
Eder already looks like he's going to be a handful for the Milan back four— Copa90 (@Copa90) January 31, 2016
The official then stole the show with a controversial decision just 10 minutes into the match, awarding Milan a free-kick after Luca Antonelli clashed with Eder. The defender seemed to commit a last-man foul on the Inter man, however, and replay confirmed the visitors should have received the free-kick and that Antonelli was lucky to still be on the pitch.
Juraj Kucka was by far the best man on the pitch for the hosts in the opening stages, and he set up Niang with a clever nutmeg, with the striker forcing Samir Handanovic into a first good save. ESPN FC's Michael Cox enjoyed what he was seeing:
Good tempo at the start of the Milan derby. Inter playing with lots of fluidity in final third, Kucka started well for Milan— Michael Cox (@Zonal_Marking) January 31, 2016
Inter had even more reasons to be frustrated with the official, as Giacomo Bonaventura accidentally caught Perisic's eye after flying into a challenge, but it didn't result in a free-kick. Alessio Romagnoli then did well to break up a promising Inter attack, forcing Perisic out wide.
Milan started to take control of the ball, and the tempo dropped midway through the first half, but Inter looked threatening on the counterattack. Alex nearly fluffed a clearance straight into his own net, but fortunately for the defender, the ball sailed over Gianluigi Donnarumma's goal.
Donnarumma made a strong impression in the first half, with a number of key saves, while Miranda was forced to make a last-ditch tackle on the other side of the pitch. A goal seemed imminent, and the hosts finally broke the deadlock 10 minutes before half-time.
Keisuke Honda fired a free-kick into the box, and Alex timed his run to perfection before powering a header past Handanovic. As shared by Bet365, the goal looked a lot like Mark Hateley's iconic goal in the 1984 derby―one the home fans happened to celebrate with their pre-match choreography:
Milan's choreography pre-match celebrates Hateley's towering header in 1984.— bet365 (@bet365) January 31, 2016
32 years on, Alex climbs to head home. pic.twitter.com/53KwmdV7SG
Inter came close to tying things up just before the end of the first half, as Donnarumma's clearance fell to Jesus. The defender tried to work the ball into the open net with the help of Jovetic, but somehow, the Nerazzurri failed to take advantage of the situation.
Tempers flared early in the second half, as Donnarumma made contact with Eder while trying to clear the ball. Inter wanted a penalty, but instead, the official handed Milan a goal kick. Mancini and his players were furious, and the incident resulted in the manager being sent to the stands.
Copa90 started getting into the derby spirit:
And now Mancini is sent to the stands! It's starting to feel like a derby! #MilanInter— Copa90 (@Copa90) January 31, 2016
The Rossoneri aimed for the counterattack and could have doubled their lead after 55 minutes, but Kucka and Bonaventura weren't on the same page, with the latter starting his run to the centre just as the ball was played wide.
Inter were fortunate Bonaventura couldn't fire the ball through a forest of legs after great work from Romagnoli, as momentum was now squarely with the hosts. The Nerazzurri responded by taking off Jovetic for Icardi, and the former was visibly upset with the decision as he walked toward the sidelines.
Icardi had an immediate impact, winning a penalty after Alex brought him down inside the box. The Rossoneri were furious with the decision, but their fury quickly evaporated when the Argentinian struck the post with his spot kick. The Guardian's Paolo Bandini couldn't believe it:
Oh Mauro! On the pitch for 7 mins so far, makes run for Inter's best chance of game, wins penalty that could level scores... but hits post— Paolo Bandini (@Paolo_Bandini) January 31, 2016
And things got even worse for the visitors just minutes later, as Bacca, who had been virtually invisible up to that point, pushed home Milan's second after a lovely ball from Niang.
Inter now imploded completely, and Niang grabbed a well-deserved goal of his own with 13 minutes left on the clock, blasting the ball past Handanovic in two tries. Anthony Lopopolo of theScore thought the youngster silenced the critics in a big way on Sunday:
Niang giving the critics something to chew on.— Anthony Lopopolo (@sportscaddy) January 31, 2016
Niang made way for Mario Balotelli, who found a way to get booked less than 60 seconds after coming on, but by that time, the match had already lost its intensity, as Milan controlled the ball and Inter no longer believed in their chances. Honda came close to a fourth goal for the hosts, who deservedly walked away with the three points.
The win is a huge result for Milan, taking the Rossoneri up to sixth place in the standings. The team has some ground to make up for the final UEFA Champions League ticket, but with a trip to Palermo on the schedule, the opportunities are there for Milan.
Inter's slump continues, and the Nerazzurri title challenge is all but over after the derby loss. Mancini's men must turn to the battle for Europe, and they'll have a great chance to return to their winning ways when they take on struggling Chievo.
Per Football Italia, Milan manager Sinisa Mihajlovic reserved special praise for Kucka:
Unsurprisingly, Inter manager Mancini was not satisfied with the outcome of the match or the officiating, as he told Mediaset Premium and Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football Italia):
Compliments to Milan, but we did not deserve this result. At the moment everything is going wrong for us.
[...] I didn’t say anything offensive, but referees are so susceptible nowadays. I don’t know what to say on the Donnarumma incident. Maybe Antonio Damato doesn’t know the rules…
I think we had an excellent first half and there should’ve been some red cards for last man fouls in our favour. Today the referee and his collaborators were a disaster, the worst on the pitch.
He also admitted to raising his middle finger to Milan fans after he was sent off, an act that was caught on camera.