Straight from the dark heart of Italy
RESULTS Sat 6 Oct Chievo 2-1 Sampdoria, Genoa 1-1 Palermo Sun 7 Oct AC Milan 0-1 Inter, AS Roma 2-0 Atalanta, Catania 2-0 Parma, Fiorentina 1-0 Bologna, Napoli 2-1 Udinese, Pescara 0-3 Lazio, Siena 1-2 Juventus, Torino 0-1 Cagliari.
The stark reality of exactly where Serie A sits in the pecking order of European football was laid bare on Sunday evening.
While Barcelona and Real Madrid were producing thrills aplenty in El Clasico and Olymique de Marseille and Paris St. Germain were stirring Gallic emotions in their own Le Classique, in Milan the meeting of the Madonnina offered little in terms of fluid football or a spectacle.
Dubbed 'the Austerity Derby' or better still 'Il Crash-ico' – it certainly came across as the poor relation on the European football family.
So troubled by the thought of playing to another half-empty stadium while the Camp Nou and Stade Velodrome were full to capacity, Milan pleaded with their fans to turn up in a half-hearted video appeal in which their players woodenly read out cringe-worthy pleas to buy a ticket.
In fact, there was a healthy enough 60,000 inside the San Siro at kick-off and as always both sets of hardcore fans attempted to out-do each other on the choreography front.
The Rossoneri Curva Sud of the stadium was swamped with a giant Devil throttling the Inter snake. This was a repeat performance and judging by the state of the banner maybe it had been bought out of storage from sometime in the 1970s.
At the other end, there was at least some biting humour from the Nerazzurri ultras, who could not resist reminding their rivals about all those big names who had left in the summer.
Their offering came in the form of a giant postcard addressed 'Ciao Merde...' and then flipped over to reveal cartoon figures of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva sending their greetings from France, while Antonio Cassano shovelled mature and Rino Gattuso did something too rude to repeat in front of Adriano Galliani.
It was all very juvenile, but when the cameras panned to Milan chief executive Galliani, who had overseen the sale of the club’s star names, his shaken reaction was priceless.
It was no wonder Silvio Berlusconi had reportedly decided to fly to Saint Petersburg to celebrate Vladimir Putin’s 60th birthday rather than face the wrath of his own fans.
If the Milan owner had tuned in he would probably have turned off after four minutes, which was when his team’s defensive failings were first exposed. A deep free-kick was swung in to the back post, with goalkeeper Christian Abbiati – who was still carrying the bruises of keeping Zenit’s Hulk at bay in the Champions League - deciding it was too hot to handle, allowing Walter Samuel the chance to stoop to head home.
For such an experienced player and one captaining the side, Abbiati’s nerves were shot to pieces and moments later it really should have been 2-0, when he inexplicitly passed the ball to Diego Milito inside his own area. But so shocked was the Argentine, he dithered for an eternity and Philippe Mexes was able to get in to block.
The miss looked set to come back and haunt Inter as Milan finally mustered some life into their game and Riccardo Montolvio came close with a long-range effort and then hit the back of the net with a blistering shot but the whistle had already gone for Urby Emanuelson’s slight contact on goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
The midfielder had made the most telling statement post-game, when he called the opposition 'provincial' – a demeaning term signifying that they are nothing more than workman-like.This certainly proved to be the case when they went down to ten men after Yuto Nagatomo was sent-off for a second yellow card for a needless hand ball at the start of the second half.
Dogged determination was the order of the day from there on in, as Andrea Stramaccioni replaced the peripheral figure of Antonio Cassano, who had been berated mercilessly through the first half by the Milan bench who were in no mood to forgive his scathing comments when he made the switch across town.
Samuel - or Il Muro (the Wall), as he is known - has won each of the ten derbies he has appeared in, and the Argentine marshalled the backline along with two other oldies in 39-year-old compatriot Javier Zanetti – in his 45th derby – and Esteban Cambiasso.
Massimiliano Allegri had promised that youth would be given its chance and in fairness he started two 19-year-olds in left-back Mattia De Sciglio and man of the moment Stephan El Shaarawy.
Neither impressed, but given El Shaarawy had scored four goals already in the league and opened his account in the Champions League in midweek, it was a surprise that the teenager was substituted for Giampaolo Pazzini who then missed a presentable chance before swivelling to play in Robinho who looked to have been body-checked by Samuel inside the area.
Milan were aggravated once more as Inter clung on to record their third consecutive derby success. It will be a long and difficult international break for Allegri, who needed a win more than his opposite number.
He has already received the dreaded vote of confidence from Galliani, but the table makes grim reading. While Inter are in touch with the top three, the once masters of Serie A are languishing 12 points behind joint-leaders Juventus and Napoli, and eight off third-placed Lazio.
Failure to qualify for the Champions League will ensure the sales of Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were all for nothing as the financial repercussions will leave Milan feeling poorer than they were on the pitch on Sunday evening.
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