AC Milan managed to bounce back from a one-goal deficit and cultivate their title hopes by beating Inter in the derby on Saturday night at San Siro.
The first half of the game was one in which Inter were the more dominant side, but in the second half the Rossoneri managed to get back into the game and win it after a couple of substitutes from Stefano Pioli gave a much-needed spark in attack.
The Derby della Madonnina started off great for the side led by Simone Inzaghi as they created a lot of chances in the first 45 minutes, but fortunately for Milan they only managed to score one goal before the half-time mark.
Pioli reacted well after the break as he brought Alexis Saelemaekers off in favour of Junior Messias which made Milan’s attack more unpredictable. Then the coach introduced Brahim Diaz, who helped turn the tide in the Rossoneri’s favour with Olivier Giroud grabbing a brace to ruin Inter’s night.
The win puts Milan just one point behind Inter for the time being, with the Nerazzurri having a game in hand, but it still leaves the Rossoneri in a good spot as they have an easier schedule and no European football to worry about. Here are five things we learned from the game…
1. The Eagle soars
Mike Maignan grabbed MOTM award in our post-game ratings, and deservedly so. The Frenchman made some crucial saves to keep Milan in the game after a first half in which Inter were dominant and had multiple chances to increase their lead, but were held back by the brilliant reflexes of Maignan.
The goalkeeper made his Milan derby debut last night as he missed the first fixture and we have to say that it will be one that he’ll remember as he was a hero for his team. Not only that, but his distribution and his growing reputation as a sweeper keeper make him a real final line of defence.
.@mmseize 🆚 Inter
🦅 The Eagles soared at San Siro.
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) February 6, 2022
2. False start
We can’t remember the last time that Alexis Saelemaekers had a decent game when in the starting XI. He seems to be way more efficient coming off the bench and struggles to impose himself on the pitch from minute one.
Against the top sides he gets exposed very easily as he struggles to create anything of note and was not even convincing on his passes against Inter, struggling to move the ball quickly.
The introduction of Messias brought some flair to the right flank and forced Inter to think a bit more about that side when going forward since Milan’s attack looked less one dimensional with the Brazilian on the pitch. It was really abject by the Belgian, who needs to gain some more confidence against the bigger opponents.
3. Experiment backfires
Playing Franck Kessie behind Olivier Giroud did not bring the desired outcome as the Ivorian was not really involved in the game and failed to even help in the defensive phase. To make matters worse, the Ivorian didn’t even seem that interested in the game itself.
It’s really about time he stays on the bench for an extended period of time, especially given his contract situation, as he doesn’t bring anything to the table at this very moment with both Bennacer and Tonali performing on a much higher level.
On top of that, with Kessie struggling to get in the game for two thirds of the game and Alexis having no impact, it was pretty easy for Inter to isolate Leao, who seemed to be the only threat on the pitch for them. Fortunately, Pioli changed that with his changes to win the game despite the dreadful performances of some players.
4. Game changer
Olivier Giroud had zero impact on the game in the first half and didn’t really get involved in the game until Brahim Diaz was introduced in the second half, but he only needed half a chance to make a difference.
His positioning and reaction on the first goal were on point and his second goal was a work of art as he turned graciously and left De Vrij for dead, also beating Handanovic with a smart shot.
🔁 On repeat all day 😍
— SempreMilan (@SempreMilanCom) February 6, 2022
The Frenchman has scored 7 goals in 8 games in which he has started for Milan resulting in all 8 being wins for the Rossoneri, and Pioli might think about keeping him in that starting role even when Ibrahimovic is back.
5. Defensively solid
Whilst Milan did struggle to limit Inter’s chances in the first half it feels like most of the chances Inter had were due to the Rossoneri’s front four struggling to press thus allowing too much space for their opponents which ended up causing problems.
Despite the unconvincing first half, most of the hosts’ chances came from set pieces and an unforgivable mistake on the first goal where Perisic was left unmarked. However, Calabria handled his side fairly well with Kalulu and Romagnoli completely neutralising Lautaro. The only negative was probably Theo who was a bit overwhelmed on the left, but the Frenchman did manage to have a couple of strong moments in the second half.
In the middle, after a shaky start, Tonali imposed himself onto the pitch as he looked like a gladiator, bullying Barella at times and leading his team with great passion. His partner Bennacer had a little more creative task, but he too made several key interceptions and looks to be improving with every single game, forming a really promising duo alongside Tonali.