Milan’s derby day didn’t provide the positive result that Milanisti were hoping for after the international break, but there were enough positives in the Rossoneri’s performance to ignore the result look at the bigger picture.
A packed San Siro witnessed a bright and dominant Milan for the majority of the fixture, Coach Sinisa Mihajlovic’s brave call to play a very offensive line-up in one of the more important fixtures of the season against a dangerous Nerazzurri actually paid off for large periods. Juraj Kucka was a pressing force in the middle while Riccardo Montolivo played like a man who was fighting for his place. Mattia De Sciglio was a consistent threat on the right while also displaying a defensive composure not often seen from the youngster.
Defensively, Milan were solid – to keep what could be one of the deadliest strike partnerships in Serie A quiet for 90 minutes was an impressive feat from the still developing Diavolo defence. Roberto Mancini’s side relying on the counter may have unlocked Milan with regularity in previous seasons. It appears this time, it’ll take something a touch more complicated to consistently cause Mihajlovic’s Milan problems.
The goal itself wasn’t a representation of Inter’s offensive talent, nor a reward for Milan’s efforts. Fredy Guarin’s shot may have flown waywardly on another night – this time the mercurial Colombian wrapped his left foot around the ball just right. It was an unfortunate blow for Milan, who themselves could’ve been two or three up within the first 20 minutes had Luiz Adriano maintained his cool in the pressure cooker atmosphere of the derby.
On the subject of striking, it was the delayed debut of Mario Balotelli that caught headlines. However, wonderfully, it was the positive performance of the 25-year-old that captured calcio as Balotelli made an immediate impact upon replacing Carlos Bacca. A lashing effort that struck the post was an immediate introduction and a reminder of his threat to the Inter defence. If Felipe Melo’s attempt to rile up the oft-temperamental forward was unsurprising, the maturity with which Mario dealt with it perhaps was.
A string of performances like the one Balotelli gave could allow the forward to reinsert himself in the Milan line-up and make the contributions his talent deserves. If Adriano’s profligacy from the derby is repeated next week, it may be sooner than expected.
“It is a shame we lost the match, but I cannot complain about the performance. Tonight I found my team again,” a pleased Sinisia Mihajlovic told press after the match. He’s right. For the first time this season, Milan looked a team in the organised mould associated with the former Sampdoria tactician’s teams – one in direct contrast to how the Rossoneri have looked in recent years.
Before the international break, Milan got the result but not the performance against Empoli. This week, the Diavolo provided the performance, but didn’t get the result. Next week against Palermo, Milan have the opportunity to provide both.