After a disappointing draw against Hellas Verona last week AC Milan were hoping to get back on winning ways against city rivals Inter.
The Rossoneri went into the game having not lost since the turn of the year, while Inter were struggling to find their form in the same period.
The game started surprisingly well for Milan as they were by far the more dominant side, and eventually Rebic and Zlatan scored to make it 2-0 before half time.
While the game looked well under control by Pioli’s men, it did not turn out to be that way as Milan completely lost focus in the second half. The Nerazzurri netted twice before the hour mark to draw level before De Vrij and Lukaku sealed the three points.
While we saw an amazing performance in the first half, the lack of experience yet again cost Milan in a game that could have given the whole team a confidence boost and got them closer to European spots.
Here are five things we learned…
1. Best half of the season
Despite the fact it all fell apart, it is important to acknowledge just how good the first half was from Pioli’s side.
Sharp passes, intense pressing and many chances created resulted in a deserved two-goal advantage at the break. We saw a side that was dominating the best defence in the league causing trouble on almost every attack.
While experience (or lack thereof) proved costly in the second half, the players did show what they are capable of doing but the consistency just wasn’t there yet again.
Surely Maldini and Boban have great regrets for not being able to add experience to the team in both the summer and in January, and a first half like this makes you wonder where could Milan stand in the table if only they had some wiser heads.
2. Still got it
Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed the game against Hellas Verona due to having the flu and calf fatigue, but after an individual training routine throughout the week he was ready for the derby.
The 38-year-old seemed as hungry as ever, and was heavily involved in Milan’s attacks, playing well with his back against the goal and bringing his team-mates in with good link-up play.
Zlatan got the assist for the opener by Rebic after bullying Diego Godin in the air, and after a couple of minutes put himself on the scoresheet as well to give his team the two goal lead.
Unfortunately for him, his team-mates let him down in the second half losing focus and collapsing allowing Inter to make a full comeback. Nonetheless, Zlatan looks sharp and in form so hopefully he will be in the centre of Milan’s recovery after this defeat.
3. Costly mistakes
The defence has been an issue since the beginning of the season for Milan, and while most of the time Romagnoli is the one that holds the backline together even he failed against the Nerazzurri.
He let Lukaku get the better off him on multiple occasions and eventually failed to prevent De Vrij from scoring the third for Inter after poor marking from the Milan captain.
While the captain didn’t have his best game, his centre-back partner Simon Kjaer and right-back Andrea Conti somehow managed to perform on an even lower level.
Kjaer often found himself in a bad position and his weakness in keeping up with play and man-marking was exploited, while Conti’s sloppiness proved costly as he left Sanchez on side for Inter equaliser.
It seems to be that the right side of the defence continues to be targeted, and with good reason.
4. Lack of depth key
Having gone 2-0 up after 45 minutes playing the way Milan were, you probably won’t find a coach rushing to make changes. However, even if he wanted to, Pioli would have struggled to do so as with Rade Krunic out injured there wasn’t really anyone that can help Bennacer in the middle to try and close the game out.
While Milan lacked depth to close the game, Inter had Eriksen, Sensi, Moses and many others on the bench to change the game – which ultimately proved decisive.
It is unfathomable that Gazidis, Maldini, Boban and the rest of the leadership believe a team can be competitive without having quality depth, especially given how much top four has been discussed.
It is simply another problem that needs to be addressed in the summer, and with Zlatan’s age and a number of players performing poorly the management will have a lot of work on if they want a different looking season in a year from now.
5. New formation looking good
It does also deserve a mention that Pioli’s change to a 4-4-1-1 formation did work perfectly in the first half.
Giving Calhanoglu a more central role allowing him to be more on the ball creating chances with Rebic on the left and Samu on the right allowed Milan to spread their attacking threat and also deploy a more aggressive press.
Ibrahimovic up top received service and was not isolated for a change, while Bennacer was excellent at dictating the game from the midfield in the opening 45 minutes.
Theo on the left was bursting forward and pinning back Candreva, which leaves us feeling as though the Milan boss may have something to build on here for future games against sides with superior quality who look to pack out the midfield – maybe starting on Thursday against Juventus.