Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Gianluca Nesci On January - 18 - 2012

Milan Derby Wrap-Up

the Milan derby

Inter continued its strong run of form with a sixth consecutive win on the weekend. Only this time, the victory was not against the likes of Parma or Cesena. The Nerazzurri signaled its return to the upper echelon of Serie A with a 1-0 win over bitter rivals AC Milan, in the latest installment of the Derby della Madonnina.

With the victory, Inter moves to within five points of Milan, who lost ground themselves in the Scudetto race as a result of Juventus picking up a point at home to Cagliari.

Despite dominating possession for large stretches of the match, the “home side” was unable to create chances in the way fans have become accustomed to throughout the season.

Massimiliano Allegri’s decision to field Urby Emanuelson behind the pairing of Ibrahimovic and Pato was an odd choice, especially given the play of Kevin-Prince Boateng in that advanced position this season. While the injury to Alberto Aquilani played a role in the decision, the Rossoneri simply could not create enough quality opportunities to trouble the Inter defence.

Milan’s best chance of the match came as the first half drew to a close, when Mark van Bommel smashed a right-footed effort that crashed off the crossbar with Julio Cesar rooted to his spot between the posts.

For a Milan side that came into the contest on a 12-match unbeaten run, it was a thoroughly disappointing performance. But Allegri was quick to point out that his team is still very much in the race for a second straight Scudetto.

“Milan is not falling apart,” he said. “Today was a day in which the top three only got a point between them. All that’s happened is that we lost the derby and Inter is back in the title race.”

As is the case in many high-pressure matches, all it took was one mistake for the points to be decided. A brutal miscue in the 54th minute from Ignazio Abate allowed Diego Milito to take the ball in stride and drive a left-footed shot across Christian Abbiati into the bottom corner. Try as he might to make the block, Abate was forced to watch as the ball struck the far post and went beyond the Milan keeper.

“It was an important test for us, for our position in the table and for morale. We’re very happy,” Milito is quoted as saying by Inter’s official website. “To win a derby is the most beautiful thing, above all for the fans. Thanks to them, because they are always behind us. This goal is for them.”

For Milito and co., things continue to look bright under Claudio Ranieri. Since replacing Gian Piero Gasperini in week five of the campaign, Inter have picked up 31 points from 15 matches. That strong run includes eight wins out of their last nine, made possible by a combination of factors.

Most importantly, the partnership of Lucio and Walter Samuel has once again provided stability to what was a shaky back four. While Andrea Ranocchia may be the future for the club at the heart of the defence, there is no question that the South American duo provides Ranieri with the best chance to win matches right now.

Higher up the field, the return to form of striker Diego Milito has been instrumental. The Argentine gives Inter a focal point in attack that was sorely lacking at the beginning of the season, having scored four goals in his last three matches. Milito now tops the scoring chart for the Nerazzurri with seven goals this season.

If the season were to start when Ranieri took charge at the San Siro, Inter would be sitting in second place in the league, trailing only their city rivals. It’s a point highlighted by the club’s official website earlier in the week.

Unfortunately, as much as Inter fans would like to forget the terrible start to the year, it’s something that will not disappear, as noted by Ranieri following the victory.

“I’m still not talking about the Scudetto, now we’re just looking at the Champions League qualifying places. We started late but, if the others trip up, then we have to be ready to take advantage,” he said. “That’s why we have to keep fighting. It’s fundamental that we get into the Champions League and then we’ll see.”

With another impressive win, that Champions League qualification continues to look more realistic.

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