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Milan 0, Inter 1: Heartbreak

I closed my preview post with the line “Win or lose, I will still hold my head high, because, not being a reptile, I can.” But I forgot that if we lost, I would be in tears, my head bowed in sorrow. Which makes it pretty difficult to type right now. But as anticipated, Inter brought their A game, the snake charmer Ranieri showing his wisdom and talents yet again. And Milan coughed and sputtered, not able to maintain our A game for 90 minutes, and it cost us 3 points and a healthy serving of pride. Heartbreak.

Heartbreak.

Derbies do strange things to people. When our boys came out, I noticed how tremendously nervous they seemed. And when the whistle blew for kickoff, they showed it on the pitch. It took them at least 15 minutes to remember who they were, during which Inter had a goal by Thiago Motta called back at 5 minutes in. Sure, Ibra took a shot that was easily saved in the 10th, followed by Pato doing his best Robinho sitter impression in the 11th. And Urby took a shot point blank at Motta’s stomach in the 13th. Either that kid’s really got a leg, or Thiago Motta is made of glass. Or maybe a little of both.

But after 15 minutes of running scared from an Inter team who came out with a ferocious intensity and determination that we haven’t seen our rivals exhibit with us in some years, Milan slowly found their way back into the fight. Our quality was showing in players like Nesta, who had a nice clearance in the 23rd, and then in the 26th was up the pitch with a nice bicycle kick up for Ibra, only it had just a bit too much power on it. Or Ibra’s “scorpion kick” tap, while being held, that went just over the crossbar in the 32nd.

Clearly, a lot of time had been spent on corners in training, which is good, since we earned 10 of them in this game. Nocerino took would take a very short corner to a waiting Urby who then used his great left foot to cross the ball into play. Now if only we had been able to capitalize on this strategy.

Thiago Motta trying to add injury to insult

But the game was also quite physical, as derbies often are. In the 27th, Pazzini fouled Thiago Silva, which scared me to death, given his uncertainty to play in this match. In the 31st, Thiago Motta had a scary sliding challenge on Ibra that sent the big man flying, but no card from Orsato. Other than that, the first half was remarkably and respectably physical. Most notably, Nagatomo and Abate seemed to cancel each other out.

Despite many valiant attempts on goal by several players, my hero of the 1st half was Abbiati, who came up big in a 1 v 1 with Alvarez, who managed to walk right past our defense before taking the shot. Abbiati hadn’t been challenged much until that point, but he came up huge when called upon. Bravo.

Van Bommel left it all out on the pitch tonight, it still wasn't enough.

The first half ended with a bang and an omen of the heartbreak that would define this game. Van Bommel took a cracking shot from distance that smacked the crossbar, and Urby's rebound was saved, too. But the biggest heartbreak was early in the second half, when our sweet Abate, just back from injury made a huge error that led to Milito’s goal. Milan 0, Inter 1. Heartbreak.

The flood of cards was held up until the 64th, and oddly enough, none of them were red this time. Boateng fouled Nagatomo in the 64th for a card. Nesta was booked in the 68th, meaning he will be suspended for our league match vs. Novara next week. Thiago Motta finally got booked in the 89th, the only Inter player to do so on this night. And the final yellow of the match went to El Shaaraway in stoppage time, after he had come on.

"Don't look at me. This is what I do. I'm the Tinkerman. I win games, not titles."

Allegri tried to outclass the Tinkerman with his subs, shuffling players around and bringing on Robinho for Zambrotta. Yes, you read that right. His attempts at jump starting our attack, which had been quite lifeless since the first half, also included bringing on Seedorf for Nocerino in the 80th, and the senator immediately had a great shot from distance in the 83rd, only to be saved by Julio Cesar. Right after that, Allegri pulled Pato off for El Shaarawy.

But the Tinkerman was able to use his subs to shore up his defense and kill time. He brought on Chivu for Alvarez in the 67th, Sneijder for Militio in the 76th, and Forlan for Pazziini in the 90th. His team were playing so well, he probably didn’t even need any subs.

Abbiati had another nice save from a Nagatomo shot in the 72nd, and Pato had a shot blocked in the 77th with a nice interplay with Ibra & Noce setting him up. We tried some blitzkrieg attacks, such as in the 84th, but this Inter defense wasn’t budging. Heartbreak.

How Ibra spent most of the game: between at least  two defenders.

Credit to Inter for starting strong and never letting their foot off the pedal, even if we managed 67% possession.. Not even the 38 year old Zanetti, who was still keeping pace with our fresh legs & youth in the final 10 minutes, slowed down for a second. People have been asking me, “What will it take to beat Milan?” I usually say injuries and also ourselves, of which we proved a little of both tonight. But the other thing that will stop us is a performance like this from a team with this level of talent and a coach who knows what he’s doing. Talent, patience, and the ability to maximize on the counter attack. Heartbreak.

And so Ranieri, the 4th coach to face Allegri in a derby in 2 seasons, finally finds a way to take the derby crown back to the other side of Milan, if only until May. Inter, those reptilian rivals, the match we want to win for more than just points or glory. We drop 3 points, hand the top of the table honors back to Juve, 1 point behind them, even if both they and Udinese had dropped points for us today. It’s hard to put a positive spin on this, a night of shattered dreams and showers of tears. It may have only been one game, there are still plenty left to play. And Milan played well, just not well enough. But in the end, there is only one word I can think of: Heartbreak.


Our next match is Coppa Italia: Milan vs. Novara
Wednesday January 18, 2012 • 21:00 CET or 3pm EST


This post inspired by the music of Rammstein