In an intensely heated Milan derby, it was the Rossoneri who came away with three well deserved points. In recent weeks, Max Allegri’s team had shown some real signs of improvement and against Inter they once again showed that they are becoming a real force, finally.
Unjustly reduced to 10 men, Milan put in a committed and professional performance, as Inter struggled to break down the Milan defence even with the numerical disadvantage they enjoyed for a third of the match.
Just as this match proved that Milan are serious title contenders, it showed that Inter are not the same team that conquered all before them last season. The reason for this is simple: Rafa Benitez is out of his depth coaching a team like Inter.
Injuries aside, Benitez still was able to field his first choice players in attack, as Scneijder played in the hole behind Diego Milito and Samual Eto’o. Yet, Inter’s attack still struggled to break down a Milan defence that is not known for being watertight. Defence is the one area that Milan continue to struggle with, having only kept three clean sheets prior to the derby.
In addition, Benitez’s side was given a completely unfair advantage when Ignazio Abate was sent off. What exactly Abate did to receive a red card in his tussle with Goran Pandev is bemusing to say the least. It was Pandev who intentionally shoved Abate to the ground and it should have been the Macedonian that was sent off.
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Despite this, chances were still few and far between for the Nerazzurri as they were restricted to mainly long range efforts. In fact, Inter only managed nine shots all evening with only two hitting the target. For a side that was chasing the game after just five minutes and that ended up playing with five attackers for much of the second half this is a poor statistic indeed.
The Inter players seemed to lack direction and for this reason it did not matter how many attacking players Benitez threw on.
But it also has to be said that the Milan rearguard was sound on the night. The performances of Thiago Silva and Alessandro Nesta in the heart of the defence were exceptional and even Gianluca Zambrotta pulled his weight, defensively at least.
Before his unfair dismissal, Ignazio Abate was having one of his better games at the back. Looking better defensively with every game, Abate also made a few penetrating runs forward. He's definitely one of the Milan’s most improved players this season.
Of course, the Milan hero on the night was none other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The big Swede looked in the mood tonight as he put in a colossal performance up front. Won the penalty, converted it to put Milan up and held the ball up well in attack especially when Milan were reduced to ten men and he was left up front alone.
It is for performances like these that Ibrahimovic justifies his status as one of the best strikers in the world.
But there was another star for Milan on the night. Watching from the dugout, for the third game running, much credit has to be given to the performance of Milan coach Max Allegri. Ever since he adopted his favoured 4-3-1-2 system after the home draw with Real Madrid, Milan have been steadily improving.
With this system working best with three hard working and more defensively minded midfielders, Allegri made the bold decision to drop Andrea Pirlo and keeping Ronaldinho on the bench for the third straight game.
With three strong midfielders in support behind him, Clarence Seedorf is able to display his finer attacking qualities.
Dominating possession in the first half, Milan’s play was splendidly fluid at times, especially in the attacking third where Zlatan Ibahimovic, Robinho and Clarence Seedorf displayed a chemistry that has been slowly developing.
Whenever they went forward, Milan looked dangerous.
The same cannot be said of Inter whose inability to get back into the match will leave Massimo Moratti questioning himself over his decision to hire Benitez.
With this fine win, Milan deservedly retains the top spot after losing it temporarily to Lazio. There can be no doubting now that the Rossoneri are serious title contenders. There can also be less doubts about Max Allegri, as he continues to justify why he is so highly rated in Italy.
As for Inter, only doubts remain. In contrast to Allegri, Benitez is slowly proving why he is one of the most overrated coaches in the world. The prospects for Inter are not great as it is appearing more and more that Inter are losing their hegemony of Italian football whilst their city rivals rise again.