Straight from the dark heart of Italy
From the Special One to the Specialist – the derby specialist that is.
Claudio Ranieri, the wily old Roman, has added the Milanese bragging rights to those he garnered in the capital during his spell at the helm of AS Roma, and to a lesser extent in Turin with Juventus.
There had been reports Jose Mourinho had been encouraged to send his support to his former players in the build-up to the game. The Milan derby was a fixture in which the Portuguese used to take three points for granted, but this most recent Inter success was built on good old Ranieri prudence and attention to detail.
Diego Forlan and Wesley Sneijder were both declared fit, so naturally everyone assumed they would start, but of course Ranieri has never been one to follow conventional thinking and with Gianpaolo Pazzini and Ricky Alvarez impressing last weekend in the 5-0 defeat of Parma, it was as you were at kick-off.
Milan, for their part, could easily have been without Alexandre Pato if the Berlsuconi family influence had not been such a pull on the striker remaining at the club instead of moving to Paris.
There may have been a few groans around the dressing room as the news came through that the bubbly Brazilian would be staying; especially if you happened to be Massimiliano Allegri, who had no option but to start the boyfriend of the president’s daughter.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic must not have been too happy either, if his subsequent display was anything to go by, though maybe the personalised training programme the Swede had been following all week was to mask an injury problem.
In truth, in the first half Inter had to dodge a few bullets, which turned out to be fired in a scatter-gun fashion rather than with the deadly accuracy we have come accustomed to from the defending champions. However, when it came to calm head in front of goal there was only one marksman to count on.
Diego Milito had been at his princely best against Parma, where he scored twice, but he was simply regal when it counted this time. He swept what was more of a pass than a shot to the far corner when presented with his only clear-cut chance of the game, after Ignazio Abate’s failed clearance left the striker with an angled run down the left side of the area.
As Milan started to look even more sluggish, Inter became more energised in every facet of their play – and having edged in front they frustrated their opponents at every turn.
There was one moment in particular that summed up the differing approaches of the two teams: Milito looked to have lost the ball in the centre of the pitch but as Ibrahimovic closed in the Argentine raced back to win the 50-50 challenge and at the same time retain possession.
Then there was Javier Zanetti and his right-hand man Esteban Cambiasso, who harried and retrieved lost causes to drive Kevin Prince Boateng and Urby Emanuelson to distraction.
While the likes of Boateng talk about getting another tattoo if they win the Champions League and generally give off the air of the modern millionaire footballer, the two Argentines would never be seen with a hair out of place (though in Cambiasso’s case, this is less of an issue).
They believe that football is their life - off-field charisma means nothing to them, unlike a few Milan players who have allowed the bright lights to blind to who they really are.
Tellingly, someone who is cut from the same football cloth as the Inter veterans – Mark Van Bommel – was Milan’s only decent performer on the night.
It had been a sobering week for Milan’s big names, what with Adriano Galliani forced to stand down in his chase to sign Carlos Tevez after what was apparently a very stern call from Berlusconi to call off the hounds and in future consult the powers at the very top – Silvio and Barbara.
The repercussions could yet be felt if Inter decide to make good on their claims for the Argentine, though with the way results are going at the moment, do they really need a potentially disruptive influence just when things within the club are settling down once again?
Ranieri will not be too concerned about who he has to work with, but he will be well aware how important his derby magic has been in galvanising the black and blue half of Milan.
Latest Italian Football News
Milan snatch Champions League spot late on
Moratti hints at change on Stramaccioni future
Fiorentina furious over Milan's 'gifted' penalty
Mazzarri quits Napoli after four seasons
Sampdoria put dampener on Juventus finale
He's here, he's there, he's...
The cost of Premier League away travel
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010