The decision to move the Milan derby to 12.30 local time didn’t go down well in all sectors. Keen to capitalise on the Chinese market with both Inter and Milan owned by investors from the Orient, the Lega Serie A decided on a kick-off that would guarantee prime-time in Asia.
Many took it as selling yet another piece of football’s soul, China merely the latest horcrux entrenching the rampant capitalism at the top of the game. If inconveniencing local fans to cater to those halfway around the world rankles, the international audience couldn’t have seen a better advert for Serie A.
Even the most trenchant of traditionalists would have to concede that San Siro looked resplendent in the sun, with enormous displays from the respective Ultras - though the Rossoneri hardcore displayed a disparaging banner about the Lega Serie A selling out for Oriental lucre.
The atmosphere is always spectacular for the Derby della Madonnina, but in recent years the fare on the pitch has often been patchy. Not so here. Both sides came out of the traps quickly, and the sell-out crowd was treated to an end-to-end contest under the Lombardy sun.
Proponents of calcio have often bemoaned the poor marketing of Serie A, and the early kick-off is surely a step in the right direction. The English Premier League may not be the best in the world, but it’s by far the most popular and the first half-hour was a decidedly English affair. Gianni Brera, the Italian journalist who claimed the perfect game would end 0-0, may have been spinning in his grave, but viewers around the world saw an open, attacking game. So much for boring Serie A.
While the Rossoneri perhaps had the better of the opening exchanges, it was Inter who took the lead. A one-two punch from Antonio Candreva and then Mauro Icardi gave Stefano Pioli’s side a 2-0 lead at the break, and it appeared all was done and dusted.
However, while Vincenzo Montella’s Diavolo may not possess the stars of the past, they are filled with the impetuousness of youth and refused to surrender. Alessio Romagnoli reduced the arrears, and Milan laid siege to the Inter goal in search of an equaliser.
It duly arrived deep into stoppage time, with goal-line technology proving that Cristian Zapata had forced the ball over the line after 97 minutes. The red-and-black half of San Siro went wild, while Interesti heads descended into hands.
An estimated 800m viewers around the world saw spectacular choreography, attacking football and an improbable comeback sealed with a last-gasp goal. If that won a few calcio converts, who cares about the kick-off time?
Image via @capuanogio