Adriano hands Inter the Derby della Madonnina

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

The Milan derby is one of the most anticipated and exciting match-ups on the Serie A fixture list.  This morning’s encounter in particular saw Inter Manager, José Mourinho hog the spotlight and contract-embattled media-dream, David Beckham, play his first-ever Derby della Madonnina.  This football feast was not to be missed by any serious fan of the Italian-game. 

AC Milan was without playmaker, Kaká, forcing Manager, Carlo Ancelotti to use Ronaldinho and Clarence Seedorf in a more advanced role.  Massimo Ambrosini and Andrea Pirlo were to marshal the midfield in front of what would turnout a very old and slow centre-back pairing of 40-year-old stalwart, Paolo Maldini and out of form Kakha Kaladze.  The team with the red stripes didn’t start well. 

Inter on the other hand were up for the challenge from the outset.  Mourinho had a record to uphold, undefeated at home dating back seven years to his first season at FC Porto, quite remarkable.  The Portuguese has kept-faith with rogue, Adriano, in recent matches; after a troublesome time earlier in the season, it paid off. 

Adriano beat Maldini to the ball and scored what was to my eyes a clear “Hand of God” moment on 29 minutes after a superb cross from Maicon.  Adriano put the ball into the net with his forearm, amazingly, no one other than the goalkeeper, Christian Abbiati, protested.  Watching the replay, it was blatantly obvious and an officiating nightmare.  The Rossoneri looked forlorn and downtrodden.  Now was the time for Inter to go for the jugular. 

Attacking-midfielder, Dejan Stanković, could’ve opened the scoring before Adriano but decided to do the “Curley-shuffle” instead of netting what seemed to be a simple tap-in.  Ambrosini pulled-off an outstanding defensive play to deny the Serb glory and leave him crestfallen. 

However, Stanković made-up for the gaff by slotting-away Inter’s second on the 43-minute mark after Zlatan Ibrahimović flicked a header on for a gift at goal.  A 2-0 half-time lead was well deserved as Inter sent a message out to the chasing-pack: It’s our Scudetto! 

Mourinho has been quoted as saying Italian football is, “for people who love and understand the game.”  It’s true, watching Serie A is an advanced technical and tactical game, compared to the quick and often skill-bereft English-game he had left when he was shown the door at Chelsea. 

It was a joy to watch Inter dominate from back to front, even though they allowed Milan possession of the ball for large spells of the match.  There was always going to be a time when the Rossoneri were going to step-up and put pressure on an Inter-side that chose to “rest on the ball” for periods of the second-half. 

Beckham had been having a quiet game and pulled-up with an injury, Ancelotti decided to replace him on 57 minutes and insert his not so secret weapon, Filippo Inzaghi.  His impact was immediate; getting caught offside on numerous occasions and then abusing the assistant referee for having the audacity to raise his flag has become his trademark, he acted no differently in this match. 

In a nice build-up play, Ronaldinho knocked the ball to Marek Jankulovski, who managed to get forward unmarked down the left, and square the ball to Alexandre Pato to finish confidently past Inter goalkeeper, Júlio César on 71 minutes.  The tide had turned very quickly and Inter was caught in a rip immediately following. 

Luckily for the Nerazzuri, Milan couldn’t break them down.  It would’ve been an injustice after Adriano had spurned many chances, along with Ibrahimović and Stanković.  Watching it live on ESPN HD, I could feel the atmosphere in my living room, I kind of felt a 2-2 headline coming – never doubt Mourinho – but Inter defended mightily. 

Mourinho made some changes to hold the lead, even though Milan looked vulnerable at the back in an effort to steal a draw.  He’d put on Patrick Viera who hadn’t featured since last November; and defenders, Nicolás Burdisso and Maxwell to create a blue and black wall.  It worked.  The Italian philosophers’ would’ve enjoyed Mourinho’s attempt at Catenaccio

Inter now go nine points ahead of Juventus and eleven clear of Milan.  It’s now Mourinho and Inter’s title to throwaway, but you never know in football.  AS Roma made the Nerazzuri sweat last season, a 4th-straight Scudetto would only act to increase Mourinho’s value to the game.  However, the coveted UEFA Champions League trophy is what the Inter board and fans so desperately crave. 

On 24 February, Manchester United visits the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza for the 1st Leg of the knockout round; the ultimate test for Inter and their special Manager will be on that eventful evening.  If Mourinho can successfully negotiate Man United and old foe Sir Alex Ferguson, Inter fans would dare to dream that maybe, just maybe, they’ve finally got it right. 


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