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TB On January - 17 - 2012

The Inter-View: The True Prince of Milan


As the smoke cleared Monday morning in the city of Milan, there was no question who won the latest edition of the Derby della Madonnina the night before.  The sun shone a bit brighter and everything tasted a bit sweeter for those wearing the Nerazzurri colours.  In a hard fought battle over 90 minutes, the warriors wearing the black and blue of Milan were victorious.

Inter came into the match against Milan as underdogs, as they had not beaten their city rivals since their historic treble winning season of 2009-10.  There were many questions being asked of manager Claudio Ranieri, the most important being which formation he would field and if the talismanic Wesley Sneijder would start.  He had experimented with two different line-ups in training during the week building up to the match, which happened to both include Sneijder.  The ‘Tinkerman’ surprised many on Sunday evening by not tinkering at all and instead by starting the same eleven that faced Parma.

The Nerazzurri lined up in a 4-3-1-2 formation with Julio Cesar in goal while Maicon, Lucio, Walter Samuel, and Yuto Nagatomo were in defence.  Captain Javier Zanetti, Esteban Cambiasso and Thiago Motta created a midfield stronghold in front of the back four, while Ricky Alvarez played behind strikers Diego Milito and Giampaolo Pazzini.

The first half set the tone of the match, with play being cagey and both sides physical in trying to gain the advantage.  Inter looked to have taken a shock lead in the fifth minute through a Thiago Motta header, but the goal was incorrectly disallowed as Motta was onside.  As the match wore on, Milan found their stride and were allowed to settle on the ball.  This saw the Nerazzurri pressed back into their half of the pitch, having to soak up the pressure before being able to clear the danger.  Both sides had distinct chances to put themselves in front before halftime, as Alvarez met a golden cross from Nagatomo, only to have his effort from yards out be saved by Abbiati in the 39th minute.  Moments before the end of the half, Milan came dangerously close as Van Bommel cracked the crossbar with a wicked shot from outside the box.  The ball bounced out to Emanuelson and he also tried his luck from distance, forcing a grand save by Cesar.  With momentum in the Rossoneri’s favour, the half could not come to an end fast enough for Inter.

Ranieri kept the same lineup as the second half commenced and even though the match was back underway, it looked like Inter mentally were still in the dressing room.  Milan came out sharp and attacking immediately putting their crosstown rivals under pressure.  Everything changed, though, in the 54th minute as Inter scored through Milito.  The amazing and ageless Zanetti took the ball down-field into Milan’s half passing the ball to his intended target, the Argentine striker.  Abate, who should have easily intercepted the pass, misjudged the ball and gave Milito the chance he needed to punish the mistake.  ‘Il Principe’ reclaimed his throne in regal fashion, slotting a perfectly placed shot with his left foot past an outstretched Abbiati.

The goal changed the face of the game and Inter changed their tactics to hold the 1-0 lead.  Ranieri substituted Alvarez for Cristian Chivu to bolster the left side of the defense, pushing Nagatomo up to the midfield.  This tactical shift was further illustrated by the exit of Milito for the widely anticipated return of Sneijder.  These substitutions countered Milan’s attack of Ibrahimovic, Pato, Robinho, Boateng, Emanuelson, and Seedorf.  Seedorf had an immediate impact on the match in his 80th minute introduction, forcing Cesar to make another spectacular save.  The Rossoneri’s best chance to equalize came minutes from full time, as Cesar blocked a close shot by Robinho only a couple yards from goal.  Diego Forlan came in for the hard working Pazzini in injury time and Interisti worldwide waited with bated breath for the fulltime whistle.

As Daniele Orsato called time, the emotions of the Inter players could not be contained and it was apparent how much this derby win meant to the team.  The players converged under the Curva Nord and joined in the chants and jumps of “Chi non salta rossonero è,” showing their appreciation of the fans.

The derby win has revived media speculation of Inter’s title chase as they find themselves only six points behind first place Juventus.  Although the Nerazzurri’s spirits remain high after such an emotional victory, talk of the Scudetto may be premature as the primary goal should be making up ground in the chase for one of only three coveted Champions League spots.  This narrowing gap is now only three points away as third place Udinese’s loss at the weekend kept them on 35 points.  This coming weekend sees fourth place Lazio visiting the fifth placed Nerazzurri, with only a point separating the two sides.

With the derby and city bragging rights now in the Nerazzurri’s pockets, it is time to look forward to the difficult road ahead.  Inter are involved in three competitions, and the fight to retain their Coppa Italia title starts this Thursday against Genoa at the San Siro.  Preparations have already been underway and it will remain to be seen which line-up Ranieri fields and who, if any, will get rested with an eye on Lazio at the weekend.  The motto since the Tinkerman has taken over seems to be “one game at a time” and until Inter reach their goal, it will be of the utmost importance to stay focused on the challenging tasks at hand.

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