For Inter this was a case of chaos to catalyst, it was about keeping calm in madness and pulling together. Many things in this Derby could have been and will be bemoaned from both sides, but in those minutes, as the clock ticked on, it was not the place.
Were Inter lucky, were Milan better, was it going to boil over, were mistakes made from both sides? That didn’t matter. All that mattered right then, was the result and the Nerazzurri got it. Now when the dust has settled on the Madonnina of madness, it is now time to take stock on what they did right and what they got very wrong.
The Coppa Italia has rarely thrown up a fixture like this in recent times and for the neutral, the game offered everything. Imagine this game with the Curva Nord, the Curva Sud and a full San Siro, however, that is digressing.
The game will always be remembered for the scuffle between the titans that are Zlatan Ibrahimović and Romelu Lukaku, it will be remembered for the Swedes sending off and of course that last gasp free kick from Inter’s black sheep ‘Pecora nera’, Christian Eriksen.
The truth is however, for Inter there was so much to learn from this game, so many areas of things they did right and wrong, things to be analysed and help them transition into a better team.
When talking of errors, one can look no further or find a better way to start than the inclusion and performance of Aleksandar Kolarov. The 35-year old has spent much of this season proving his inability to play not only in a back three for Inter but in any position.
His pace is gone, his mental awareness lacking and more shockingly his dead ball ability seems to have been left somewhere in the Eternal City. Admittedly, he was up against ‘Zlatan’, but let us not us forget his age.
Just before the first goal, he was turned out jumped by the Swede and his starting position was terrible. Culpable for Milan’s opener too, the signs were there for all to say that his days are numbered and its time to break with him.
Speaking of veterans, Samir Handanovic had a relatively quiet night considering so it maybe a strange change of pace to talk goalkeepers. Milan played their reserve goalkeeper, Ciprian Tatarusanu and despite being too far over for Eriksen’s free kick had a superb night showing that the Rossoneri have a backup that many Serie A teams would have as their first. Ionut Radu, Inter’s reserve, did not feature showing that Conte simply does not trust the Romanian.
If this is the case then he needs to find someone he does, as well as finding a replacement for Handanovic. Juan Musso of Udinese provided the best audition for the part this weekend and would be a superb acquisition that then could move Handanovic to number two.
Transfers will be on everyone’s lips at this time of year but not Antonio Conte’s for once. ‘Nobody in and nobody out’ he reiterated again after the game. Eriksen’s goal seems to have helped the coach cover over his early season snub of the Dane and now the talk is of tactical tweaks, a Marcelo Brozovic replacement and that that goal may help boost Christian’s confidence just like the ‘mister’ has been trying to do.
This may be good PR but Inter will not care, even if it has taken time, Eriksen in the squad is better than him out of it, it seems that is a positive development that can improve Inter.
If any player can make Inter better, it is the presence of Lukaku. The well-documented spat with Ibrahimović was box office but as the players walked down the tunnel, it seemed the Belgian had taken the bait and lost the plot. Conte’s ability to calm him and channel his aggression certainly worked and showed that Inter can play with intensity have a fighting spirit without going ‘level 10 Vidal’.
The team looked unified over a common cause and pulled together, showcasing maturity not yet seen. The coach should know this better than anyone as said after the game that “To be honest, I’ve been a player, so I know that during a game tempers can flare and situations occur when you get angry. The important thing is to keep it in the right dimension.”
There were other takes from the tumultuous affair that can need to be continued or improved on. Ivan Perisic showed again that whilst he works hard every game, his decision-making, defensive qualities and final ball are letting him down and perhaps needs a break from the first eleven.
Conte did move to a back four for a brief period in a game showing that Inter can play in different ways; many in black and blue will welcome this. In risk of sounding like the coach, Inter were again not clinical enough and this is becoming quite an issue, Finally Nicolo Barella was again superb and showed captain like qualities, first leading by example and then pointing out that there is no gap between Milan and Inter.
The Derby Della Madonnina was electric, it was frustrating, it was dominated at times by the referee and it was chaos for both teams. There is still plenty that can be learned from it however and for the Nerazzurri things look bright.
They are still riddled with issues but they seem to be slowly improving and what is more important is that they still have the chance of a double.