?Inter mounted a heroic second-half comeback to topple AC Milan 4-2 in the Derby dello Madonnina on Sunday night, returning to the top of Serie A in the process.
The Rossoneri seemed to stun the hosts early on with their suffocating intensity out of possession, and they went close to taking the lead through Hakan Calhanoglu – whose effort from distance cannoned off the post.
Despite Milan’s superiority, Inter started to threaten Gianluigi Donnarumma’s goal as Diego Godin and Matias Vecino went close.
The ‘away’ side’s dominance eventually paid off, however, as Ante Rebic tucked into an empty net after good work from Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Just before half-time, things went from bad to worse for Inter as Zlatan himself doubled the Rossoneri’s lead, sweeping in at the back post after Franck Kessie had rather fortuitously knocked the ball into his path.
Remarkably though, Milan’s two-goal lead swiftly evaporated within eight minutes of the restart. Marcelo Brozovic pulling one back for the Nerazzurri with an expertly taken volley before Vecino atoned for his earlier miss to level things up.
Milan halted the momentum after Vecino’s equaliser but with 20 minutes remaining, Inter took the lead through Stefan de Vrij; the Dutchman glancing his header home expertly from an outswinging Antonio Candreva corner to beat Donnarumma.
The away side started to probe once more as they went in search for an equaliser, and they almost snatched a point through Ibrahimovic but his header rattled the post.
But in stoppage time, Romelu Lukaku ensured Inter would claim all three points as he nodded home substitute Victor Moses’ cross from the right – the Belgian taking his goal tally in Serie A up to 18 for the season.
Key Talking Point
What a second-half display by Antonio Conte’s men, eh?
After a tepid, conservative effort in the opening 45, Inter came out like a team possessed after the break. Their work-rate out of possession increased ten-fold as they started to prevent Milan’s creators from having joy in between the lines, with Inter’s midfield trio eventually taking ownership of the middle of the park.
It was their persistence and determination that ultimately led to them bagging four goals in the second period, with Conte seemingly doing an incredible job to reinvigorate his players at half-time.
Although it was yet another incomplete display, their second-half performance was certainly one of champions.
Starting XI: Padelli (4); Godin (6), De Vrij (8*), Skriniar (7); Candreva (6), Vecino (6), Brozovic (8), Barella (6), Young (5); Sanchez (6), Lukaku (8)
Subs: Eriksen (7), Moses (6), Biraghi (N/A)
Stefan de Vrij
The Dutchman continued to prove why he’s one of the most underrated defenders in Europe with a match-winning display in the derby.
Although Ibrahimovic’s physicality caused him problems in the early exchanges, he quickly acclimatised and started to win the one-on-one battle against the Swede.
While his defensive clearance to prevent Milan from doubling their lead (before they actually did) was immense, his goal to complete the Inter comeback was even better.
Key Talking Point
Despite the defeat, Stefano Pioli can take great confidence from his side’s first-half display in this one – arguably their finest 45 minutes of football this season.
The 4-4-2 setup worked a treat for Pioli, with the likes of Calhanoglu – operating as a second striker – Rebic and Saul Castillejo enjoying significant space in behind Inter’s relatively flat midfield three. Their quick combination play also caused the hosts a lot of issues while they persistently overloaded the flanks to ensure Candreva and Ashley Young were in for a testing 90 minutes.
Tactically, Pioli got it spot on but in the end, they were simply outdone by a moment of magic by Brozovic out of the blue and all the momentum the Nerazzurri took from it.
Starting XI: Donnarumma (6); Conti (6), Kjaer (7), Romagnoli (6), Hernandez (7); Castillejo (7), Kessie (8), Bennacer (8*), Rebic (8); Calhanoglu (6), Ibrahimovic (7)
Subs: Leao (6), Paqueta (6), Bonaventura (6).
A consistent performer in midfield for Milan this season, Bennacer churned out another fantastic display on Sunday night.
Although he and Kessie were outnumbered in midfield, their intensity and aggression out of possession ensured they dominated the middle of the park for opening 45 minutes.
His influence certainly dwindled in the second period, but an immaculate display nonetheless.
The Coppa Italia is next on the agenda for Inter