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Francesco Pizzolla On April - 4 - 2011

Milan 3-0 Inter: Pato Perfect’s Perfect Derby

It’s amazing what a little bit of rest can do. For Milan, it transformed a squad that was demoralized, tired, and out of ideas into a squad that was focused, determined, confident, and most of all, victorious.

The most important derby since 2003 ended 3-0 in Milan’s favor, and if you believe in omens, the last time Milan had won both derbies in a season was in 2003/2004 when Milan last won the Scudetto. With seven games left to go, the Rossoneri are now again five points ahead of Inter, but only three points ahead of a highly entertaining Napoli side. Anything can happen, but Milan know they are in control of their own destiny and have to just be focused on winning.

Since the derby was a Milan home game, Leonardo knew that walking into the San Siro as Inter manager wasn’t going to get the nicest of reactions. Tons of anti-Leonardo banners were scattered around the San Siro crowd, but the best of all was the Curva Sud’s much anticipated choreography. With both teams stepping onto the pitch, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper was displayed, with a banner under it that said Judas Interista.

It was fundamental for Milan to get off to a great start, but I bet you not one Milan fan expected to go ahead after only 45 seconds of play. Milan put together a nice move that ended with Gattuso filtering a pass through for Robinho, who’s quick shot was deflected by Julio Cesar into the path of Pato, who made no mistake in finishing and putting the Rossoneri ahead. Oh how Barbara Berlusconi must have been delighted.

After the goal, Inter tried to find the equalizer, but Christian Abbiati was not going to let anything get past him in net. First, Abbiati denied Pazzini with a solid stop after the former Sampdoria bomber skipped past Zambrotta. Next, Abbiati performed an authentic miracle in denying Ranocchia a goal from a corner. The Inter players claimed the ball went over the line, but after watching the replay numerous times I’m convinced that it didn’t cross the line.

After half-time, Milan started the second half with a bang, and then gained the numerical advantage. Chivu was forced to pull down Pato on a breakaway, and the Romanian international was sent off, leaving Inter in 10. With the numerical advantage, Milan took control of the game, and eventually scored a second with Pato again, reacting wonderfully to an Abate mishit shot that he probably would claim was a cross. Going into the game, many doubts were cast on Pato and his history of disappearing in big games. Those doubts were erased on Saturday, as the Brazilian proved to be decisive.

With the 2-0 lead and Inter in 10 men, Milan had the opportunity to score a couple of more goals, but poor finishing from Robinho (as we’ve seen all season) prevented that. Antonio Cassano stepped onto the pitch for the last 10 minutes and managed to make his impact on the derby. Cassano controlled a long pass nicely in the Inter area and was taken down by Zanetti. FantAntonio converted the spot kick, and that means he has scored in every derby he has taken part of (Bari-Lecce, Roma-Lazio, Real-Atletico, Sampdoria-Genoa, and now Milan-Inter). In typical Cassano fashion, he then managed to do something stupid. Since he got a yellow for removing his shirt after scoring, the yellow card he received for a meaningless foul on Cordoba meant he was sent off. For people that have followed Cassano’s career, this came as no surprise.

Milan’s victory was much-needed and immensely important. Losing the derby would have severely hurt Milan psychologically, and I’m uncertain that they would have been able to regroup and win the title. Plaudits have to go to Max Allegri, who prepped the squad wonderfully over the international break and made the right choices on the pitch. There was not one bad player for Milan on Saturday. Every player was simply outstanding, and all must be lauded for what they did on the pitch. Allegri’s decision to move Seedorf into a regista role turned out to be a great gamble, as the Dutchman really bossed the midfield. Kevin Prince-Boateng should never be moved from his trequartista position, and he has really become an integral part of the Milan midfield. Mark Van Bommel, after two sub-par performances, put in a masterclass performance in the center of the pitch, really holding off Inter’s flair players. Nesta and Thiago Silva were excellent as always, but the real star in defense was Ignazio Abate. Abate has been improving in every game, and he really deserves a Nazionale call-up. His speed is brilliant and his defensive skills are really improving. If there’s one bad thing about his game, it’s that he has to be a little more incisive when he attacks.

With Ibra returning, Allegri has to make a decision up front. Does he go with Pato and Ibra and Robinho on the bench, or does Ibra shockingly sit on the bench and wait his turn? We’ll have to see. Seven tough games await the Rossoneri, but if they keep performing as they did on Saturday, there is no reason why the Scudetto cannot be Rossonero this season.

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