Rodrigo Palacio’s delightful back-heel flick in the final minutes allowed Inter to beat Milan in the Derby della Madonnina.
Max Allegri pulled a huge surprise by picking Riccardo Saponara for his first start, having played just 24 minutes in two substitute appearances, the day after his 22nd birthday. Riccardo Montolivo and Ricky Alvarez were suspended with Diego Milito, Robinho, Stephan El Shaarawy, Matias Silvestre, Ignazio Abate, Marco Amelia and Valter Birsa injured.
Milan were unbeaten in five, while Inter hadn’t won during the same period, but remained nine points ahead of the Rossoneri. There was no choreography in the stands, as the Nerazzurri ultras were only allowed in after an appeal against their ban was accepted on Friday for anti-Neapolitan chants. Milan ultras were barred from bringing in their choreography this morning, so in solidarity Inter fans removed their banners too.
Saponara had a bright start, setting up Mario Balotelli for a shot deflected off target by Juan Jesus. Balotelli fired over from a Mattia De Sciglio’s cross, but committed a foul when following up after Samir Handanovic spilled Ricky Kaka’s angled drive.
Milan were in control early on, but after 15 minutes Fredy Guarin saw Christian Abbiati off his line and looped just wide. Sulley Muntari scuffed a shot off target and Yuto Nagatomo nodded a Saphir Taider curling cross over at the back post.
The Rossoneri wasted a golden opportunity on 29 minutes. Handanovic flapped at a Kaka corner and it fell to Andrea Poli, who lost his balance to balloon over an open goal from 12 yards.
Rodrigo Palacio was understandably furious just before the break when he was tripped from behind by Cristian Zapata, but the referee waved away penalty appeals. Muntari also escaped a card for landing on Jonathan’s shin with his studs and Kevin Constant was booked for pulling back Guarin. In the final kick of the first half, Esteban Cambiasso nodded a Taider set piece just past the far post.
Constant sprained his right ankle and was replaced by Urby Emanuelson. Jonathan fired straight at Christian Abbiati, while Handanovic’s one-handed save beat away a Balotelli shot with Nagatomo anticipating Poli on the rebound. Balo threatened again, his volley with the outside of the boot deflected wide.
Hugo Campagnaro risked an own goal with a ricochet that whistled past the post, Abbiati smothered a Nagatomo strike, Balotelli turned a Kaka free kick wide at full stretch and blasted his own set play off target.
Inter started to pile on more pressure as Milan appeared to tire, but Mattia De Sciglio stopped a dangerous Guarin counter-attack and Mateo Kovacic blasted over after a good move.
They had a great chance on 79 minutes when Palacio turned to force a save out of Abbiati, then the move continued and Palacio again prodded it into the goalkeeper’s grateful hands. Moments later Milan wasted a counter-attack with Balotelli’s heavy touch.
Seeing the Nerazzurri were now in control, Walter Mazzarri threw on striker Mauro Icardi for midfielder Cambiasso. It paid off, as Inter broke the deadlock with five minutes left. Guarin rolled across for Palacio to smartly turn in a backheel flick from six yards, surprising Zapata and Abbiati.
Giampaolo Pazzini made his comeback after knee surgery, replacing Poli, but the Rossoneri were visibly out of steam and Palacio fired over from the edge of the box.
In stoppages it erupted into a touchline brawl when Muntari shoulder-charged Kuzmanovic for time-wasting, as he wouldn’t give back the ball. The Ghanaian was shown a red card.
From that Balotelli free kick, Handanovic fingertipped it off the head of Nigel De Jong at the back post.
Sent off: Muntari 93 (M)