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SerieAWeekly On February - 28 - 2013

Milan Derby The Calm after the Storm

Milan named a very similar lineup to the one that overcame Barcelona in their now tried and trusted 4-3-3. The only changes saw Mattia De Sciglio, Antonio Nocerino & Mario Balotelli included at the expense of Kevin Constant, Massimo Ambrosini and Giampaolo Pazzini. At the other of the pitch the Nerazurri handed a start to Ricky Alvarez with Esteban Cambiasso and Walter Gargano playing in centre midfield and a cautious 4-4-2 formation.

Although Inter comfortably disposed of Romanian side Cluj in the Europa League mid-week, Milan entered the derby with the upper-hand. They had begun 2013 a resurgent side, devoid of most of the troubles that had plagued them at the beginning of the season. The icing on the cake was a 2-0 home victory over Barcelona which resulted in Milan entering the derby clearly on an upward spiral.

True to form, despite a tentative opening few minutes, Milan dominated the first half. The Rossoneri played with confidence creating numerous scoring opportunities obviously boyed by their victory over Barcelona and deservedly took the lead though an El Shaarawy goal in the 21st minute. Unable to add further to the score line by half time Inter would be left trailling their city rivials by a goal. The second half started off tense for Rossoneri tifosi with the team left backpedaling as Inter surged forward for a early equalizer. Inter would in fact grow stronger eventually earning a well deserved point once the final whistle sounded.

Question, How did Milan go from so far in ascendency, completely dominating their opposition yet walking away with a solitary point?

Derby Meat and Potatoes

The Last Match

The after-effects of playing  FC Barcelona are well-documented. Their possession style play generates that well-known fact of opposition teams at the most having 30-40% possession. Pulling off this extremely difficult task of beating Barcelona with such little possession is guaranteed to take its toll on a team primarily defending their own goal. The Red and Black had to accomplish this with a lineup which included eight players who would ultimately feature in the weekend derby. It came as no surprise as the match progressed, especially after the interval, they would fatigue. Players like Sulley Muntari, Kevin Prince Boateng (having an excellent first half) and Stephan El Shaarawy came out in the second half looking like spent figures. The Champions League triumph had taken its toll yet Max Allegri astonishingly made the first of his three substitutions only after 80 minutes with the youngster Mbaye Niang replaced Boateng. Was no surprise Inter saw their way back into this one with mismatches on the pitch opening up play.

The Keepers

Standing between Milan going three or four goals up during first half play was the imperious Samir Handanovic. The Inter goalkeeper’s display allowed the Nezazzurri to enter the dressing room at the interval still in the game. Handonovic single-handedly denied Mario Balotelli a first half hat-trick with several additional excellent saves at the goal line. In the opposition goal was Christian Abbiati who faced twice as many attempts as his Inter counterpart, eventually allowing a 71st minute equalizer.

The Stramaccioni counter-play

Somewhat forced to, Inter were the first team and probably the only team to react tactically. Andrea Stramaccioni switched his full-backs during the break allowing the experienced Javier Zanetti to move over to right back with the intention of neturalizing an El-Shaarawy threat during the second 45. The ever-present Zanetti did his job with Milan’s Il Faraone subdued. Coupled with tired legs El-Shaarawy was largely ineffective late in the match and Inter had managed to thwart one of Milan’s main attacking options to with Allegri having no response.

Next came Stramaccioni master-stroke, whether fully intended or not the Argentine Cambiasso made way for substitute Ezequiel Schelotto to enter the fray. Literally three minutes later, young Schelotto would score an equaliser from a header his first derby goal. Nocerino had casually allowed Yuto Nagatoma too much time and space down the left with the quick footed Nagatoma crossing to the leaping Schelotto unmarked. Philippe Mexes who had been excellent against Barcelona, had another good night un to this point. Leaving Schelotto unmarked the Frenchman recorded his one solitary lapse of concentration. Ultimately this portion of play rejuvenated Inter then growing in confidence as Gargano, Fredy Guarin and Zanetti found themselves with more time on the ball and an ability to dictate the game.

Milan have yet to find a consistent midfield trio, that can complement the all-round ability of Montolivo. Montolivo has blossomed and is now being referred to as Milan’s new Andrea Pirlo, could he be the one?  In the past Pirlo had players such as Gatusso and a younger Ambrosini to break up an oppositions attack, allowing Pirlo a freedom of space to dictate Milan’s response. The current Rossoneri gameplan was to field Muntari and Nocerino .  While many will be questioning where the Nocerino of last season has disappeared to, some feel that Muntari simply might not be of a high enough standard. Certainly after Muntari accomplished 90 minutes against Barcelona, a pair of fresh legs during the second half in the Derby four days later could have done Milan the world of good.

Stramaccioni and his Inter side deserve credit for reacting and changing the course of the game through tactical decisions. Milan instead relied on the old adage of “its not broken, don’t fix it” but were unable to adapt once the opposition had provided answers to their game plan. Perhaps in only waiting  for the 80th minute to make a change when Milan were struggling during the second half was an indication that Allegri was satisfied with a draw. A draw is by no means disrespectful but with one point from the two derbies this season and with the race for third and a final Champions League spot tightly contested, this is definitely two points lost by Milan.


Serie A Weekly welcomes guest writer Ebrahim Sadien to the forum of sport

2 Responses so far.

  1. Muff Jones says:

    Looks like Milan is heading in the right direction, building a formiddable team for the future…watch out Europe, with Barca looking jaded in the last El Clasico, Milan has the potential to take over the task of football domination…

  2. Paul Wilson says:

    Great analysis of game!! Was hoping that they would use the momentum of a great result against Barca to see them through against fierce rivals! Two massive games within a few days was a step too far for a young squad only recently coming into form!! Look forward to the next issue!!

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