The Derby della Madonnina showed the world it had lost none of its glamour and none of its appeal. The choreography from Milan's Curva Sud was exemplary, matched only by the majesty of the huge banner unveiled over three parts of Inter's Curva Nord, telling the world that 'The Serpent' was the symbol of Milan. The game itself entertained and frustrated both sets of supporters in equal measure and whilst it showcased how far both Milan clubs have come, it was also an advert for their deficiencies.
Few Milan derbies have managed to represent what the fixture means in recent years, but it did this Sunday. Sandro Mazzola had spoken earlier in the week to the Corriere Dello Sport, explaining that games like this were the one of the few things that still connected the passion of the old game with modern football. The first half was in some ways a throwback to Milan derbies of old. It started at a frenetic pace and saw the Nerazzurri press high up the pitch whilst the 'away team' quickly accepted their role and tried to absorb the pressure. Inter hit the post and both teams had goals disallowed, correctly being ruled out for offside.
The second continued as the first half had ended. Inter certainly will be pleased with their initial approach as it was obvious from the start that Milan could be exposed defensively. Despite this however and the good build up play the Nerazzurri produced, they lacked in the final third and failed to impose themselves on the game. Radja Nainggolan's injury in the first half had been a blow and it was from this point that Inter failed to impose themselves on Milan. Borja Valero offers much in technical quality but neither had the engine nor the ability to control the game from this area and Inter suffered as a result. Milan on the other hand struggled to get the dangerous partnership of Suso and Gonzalo Higuaín into the game and because of this, they looked very much like the away team, as Milan Skriniar and Stefan de Vrij could claim to have done their job well.
The disturbing element of the game for Inter, is that they ran out of ideas when in control of the game. They defended well, there is no doubt about that, Brozovic and Vecino were more dominant in midfield and their wide men caused Milan problems. The Rossoneri recognised this early and settled into a defensive strategy early on but the home side had few answers, with games against Barcelona and Lazio coming up, they will hope to have more creativity. Yes, they are pragmatic, yes, they are physical but there is still no evidence that Spalletti is any closer to getting his team to play the free flowing and cavalier football that he managed to get his Roma team to play. They still need a plan to allow Icardi multiple routes to goal.
Milan themselves may look back at the game and be somewhat disappointed that they did not play with more adventure. Against Sassuolo, Olympiakos and Chievo they had scored ten goals in three games and played some superb free flowing football in the process. Maybe it was the occasion, maybe it was the fact that they simply gave their hosts too much respect, or possibly Inter simply stifled them but they arguably played within themselves. Higuain was isolated as the Rossoneri lost most of the midfield battles and as the game neared the end they looked happy for the point.
It wouldn’t be the Derby Della Madonnina without a huge dose of drama and the champagne finish that Inter offered up, was worthy of the history and tradition of the fixture. With many accepting that the 0-0 draw was perhaps going to be a good result for both teams Matias Vecino, the man who loves a late finish more than Nicola Berti, delivered a cross that found Icardi, he didn’t need asking twice. He never does.
Inter had won the Derby in the dying embers and again showed that ever since the Lazio game at the end of last season they have a new character and never say die attitude. Hey still have a plethora of issues, especially creatively but that can wait. They had won the Derby against a Milan team who will be disappointed in themselves that they didn’t offer more. Whilst there is plenty to be frustrated about on both sides, there are many positives and none more so, than tonight was another example of how important the Derby della Madonnina is in the world football calendar.