AC Milan vs. Inter: Winners and Losers from Serie a Milan Derby
AC Milan claimed bragging rights over city rivals Inter Milan with a resounding 3-0 triumph in Sunday's Derby della Madonnina.
The Rossoneri avenged a 1-0 loss at the hands of the same opponents on Sept. 13, 2015, extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to six games in the process.
A header from Alex broke the deadlock after 35 minutes, but the defender looked to have turned from hero to villain when he gave away a penalty in the second half.
However, forward Mauro Icardi—who had started the game on the bench—saw his spot-kick kept out by a post. Just three minutes later, AC Milan doubled their lead when striker Carlos Bacca converted M’Baye Niang's cross.
Niang turned from provider to scorer for the game's third goal, the forward finding the net at the second attempt after Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic had saved his initial effort.
The result still leaves AC Milan in sixth spot in the table, although they are now just five points behind their fourth-placed opponents.
Here, Bleacher Report has picked out the winners and losers from what turned out to be a one-sided derby.
Winner: M’Baye Niang
Niang played a starring role in AC Milan's victory, justifying the club's decision not to accept an offer for him during the January transfer window.
The French forward scored one goal and had a sizeable hand in another, as it was his sublime cross from the right that allowed team-mate Bacca to double AC Milan's lead.
The 21-year-old—picked by Bleacher Report's Blair Newman as the Italian club's man to watch in 2016—showed just why Leicester City were keen to sign the player.
According to Simon Jones of the Mail Online, the Foxes had a £12 million bid rejected by the Rossoneri.
Niang—who scored his side's third goal in the 77th minute—was taken off before the final whistle, yet didn't receive a pat on the back from manager Sinisa Mihajlovic. Instead, his efforts were rewarded with a playful kick up the backside!
Loser: Mauro Icardi
In a surprising move, Icardi was left out of Inter Milan's starting XI.
Instead, manager Roberto Mancini handed a debut to new signing Eder, who had arrived on a two-year loan from Serie A rivals Sampdoria.
Sent on in place of Stevan Jovetic after 64 minutes with his side still 1-0 down—Icardi had a glorious opportunity to bring his side level when he won a penalty.
But, after being fouled by AC Milan defender Alex attempting to convert a rebound, the Argentina international fluffed his lines from the spot.
His attempt hit the woodwork and stayed out. As journalist James Horncastle pointed out on Twitter, it had been a case of "Icardi & Choke."
Winner: Keisuke Honda
Keisuke Honda worked tirelessly for AC Milan's cause, but he deserves to be included as a winner for his fabulous assist in the first half.
The Rossoneri had struggled to create any chances of note in 35 minutes until Honda curled over a gorgeous cross from the right flank with his left foot.
The Japan international's delivery picked out team-mate Alex at the far post, with the defender nodding home from close range to break the deadlock.
AC Milan manager Sinisa Mihajlovic was quick to praise the industrious Honda in his post-match interview.
He told Sky Sport Italia (h/t Football-Italia.net): "Keisuke Honda has a very Japanese mentality, which means when you explain clearly what he needs to do, he does it. He sacrifices himself, doesn’t give the ball away often and has great technique. He should score a few more goals, but he’s one of those players who people don’t let get away with anything."
Loser: Roberto Mancini
Inter Milan manager Roberto Mancini finished watching his side's 3-0 defeat from the stands.
The former Manchester City boss was ordered to leave the touchline by referee Antonio Damato after complaining vociferously about a penalty appeal for his side when the score was still 1-0.
Mancini had taken a gamble with his starting XI, choosing to leave out Icardi.
But Inter's sudden defensive issues will be the biggest concern for Mancini—he has now seen his side concede six goals in a week, having also lost, 3-0, to Juventus in the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final.
The Nerazzurri are now nine points behind Serie A leaders Napoli. They have little time to lick their wounds after the derby defeat, however, as they host Chievo in league action on Feb. 3.
Winner: Juraj Kucka
Midfielder Juraj Kucka didn't score for AC Milan, but he still played a pivotal role in their victory.
The Slovakian was given the chance to burst forward at every opportunity due to fellow midfielder Riccardo Montolivo positioning himself in an anchoring role in the centre of the park.
Kucka's all-action performance showed again why the Rossoneri picked up a real bargain in signing the player for £2.10m from Genoa in the summer of 2015, per Transfermarkt.co.uk.
He certainly caught the eye of AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani, who told the club's official website: "I was really, really impressed with Kucka tonight. He has incredible physical abilities while Alex was fantastic."
Winner: Carlos Bacca
Bacca wasn't heavily involved in the Derby della Madonnina, yet he still found a way to make an impact.
The Colombian forward came alive at the right time to convert Niang's wonderful cross from the right wing and double AC Milan's lead after 73 minutes at the San Siro.
The ball from Niang made Bacca's job easy, but the former Sevilla player wouldn't have had a chance of reaching the ball in had he not made a clever run in between Inter Milan's two centre-backs.
He has made a habit of making the most of his limited opportunities this season, as journalist Paolo Bandini pointed out on Twitter: "We've barely seen Bacca in this game, but that's the story of his season."
Bacca has now scored four goals in his last five outings.