A rare Nigel De Jong header gave Milan some bragging rights over Inter and all three points in the Derby della Madonnina.
There was local pride at stake in this showdown, but also precious points in the race to qualify for the Europa League for two giants who had fallen on tough times. Andrea Poli and Mattia De Sciglio came in for Keisuke Honda and Daniele Bonera, while Valter Birsa and Riccardo Saponara were injured. Inter welcomed back Walter Samuel and Rolando from suspension, plus Jonathan after injury, but Juan Jesus is out for the season.
Milan had not beaten their ‘cousins’ in any of the last five derby meetings, but Clarence Seedorf tweaked his tactics for a diamond midfield with Ricky Kaka closer to Mario Balotelli.
SuperMario forced an early save out of Samir Handanovic with a screamer from distance, but play was halted for a push on Esteban Cambiasso.
Philippe Mexes was booked for an awful tackle on Mauro Icardi, while Yuto Nagatomo skipped past De Sciglio at the by-line and Christian Abbiati did well to intercept his assist for Rodrigo Palacio.
Inter’s promising attack was halted by an incorrect offside flag with Palacio ready to run into the box.
De Sciglio had a difficult start to the game after his long injury lay-off and had a good chance when he found space down the right on Adel Taarabt’s slide rule pass, but his cross-shot hit the side-netting.
Handanovic smothered a Kaka shot at the base of the near post and plucked a Balotelli free kick out of the air.
Milan had the best chance of the half on 37 minutes when Kaka trapped a long ball and was one against two, but still got his shot away to dip viciously over Handanovic and smack against the crossbar.
De Sciglio had a huge stroke of luck when he slipped one-on-one with Palacio in the final third, but still managed to stick out a leg in the right place and win the tackle.
In the final move of the half, Kaka got on the end of a cross at the back post, but was leaning back and ballooned the half-volley over from a tricky position.
Straight after the restart Rolando’s poor clearance gifted Balotelli, but the Portuguese defender made up for it by flinging himself at the shot to charge it down.
A corner was taken short to find Icardi in space only for him to shin off target, while Mexes went closer at the other end with his header whistling wide from the flag.
Milan eventually broke the deadlock from a set play, as Balotelli whipped in a splendid free kick from the right for Nigel De Jong’s free header from four yards. It was Cambiasso who lost sight of the Dutch midfielder.
De Jong proved decisive at the other end moments later, as his sliding tackle did just enough to deflect Palacio’s strike over the bar.
Giampaolo Pazzini came off the bench to face his former club and made an immediate impact, but not a good one. He was in an offside position when Balotelli’s shot came through and got a deflection on the way through, so was interfering with play.
Walter Samuel ran a big risk when kicking the back of Balotelli’s leg, as he had already been booked. SuperMario then hit a free kick from distance that Handanovic needed two attempts to control.
Diego Milito came on for his final Milan Derby, but all the substitutions were used up, so there was no last salute in this fixture for Javier Zanetti, who will retire at the end of the season.
Ignazio Abate replaced Kevin Constant late on, moving De Sciglio to left-back. A Hernanes free kick found Milito’s header over the bar and Christian Abbiati was booked for time-wasting, which means he’ll be suspended against Atalanta.