Written by Arjit
Ok Fellow Milanisti ! Let’s Discuss Milan ! Let’s Talk Some Red & Black !
The Milan Derby 2020/21
Derby Victory Folks !! Sempre Forza Milan !! Milano Is Red & Black !!
31st January 2016. The last time Milan emerged victorious over long time city rivals Inter in Serie A. Sinisa Mihajlovic was still the manager back then. More than four years and several managerial causalities later, the Rossoneri finally reclaimed the city bragging rights in a pulsating evening of football action at the stunning San Siro. The victory extends Milan’s incredible unbeaten streak to 20 games in all competitions. The team has started the season in dazzling form, winning each of their 7 games. Stefano Pioli has led from the front and matched Fabio Capello’s 1995 record of opening a league campaign with four straight victories. The derby win comes at the perfect time and will boost the team’s confidence even further in their pursuit of a Champions League berth.
The derby began in an exhilarating manner with Milan pressing Conte’s team deep in their own half. The Rossoneri continued to dominate the proceedings as the Nerazzurri struggled to cope with the early pressure. Stefano Pioli had a clear gameplan to target Inter’s makeshift and fragile defense that included Stefan de Vrij as the only recognized centre half with Kolarov and D’Ambrosio on either side of him. Zlatan opened the scoring around the 13th minute mark after being brought down by Kolarov inside the penalty area. He doubled the lead three minutes later, applying a neat finish from an inch perfect cross by Leao down the left flank. Lukaku pulled a goal back just around the half hour mark after some impressive work from Perisic on the wings. The Belgian had a clear chance to double his tally but failed to direct his header from a corner.
Inter began the second half with a more attacking approach in search for an equalizer. Vidal found Hakimi with a fantastic cross but the Moroccan couldn’t find the back of the net. Krunic should have extended Milan’s lead but missed after going clear through on goal from a Castillejo pass. Leao took a snapshot that went narrowly wide of Handanovic’s goal. Lukaku was brought down by Donnarumma prompting the referee to award the penalty. Upon VAR review, the decision was correctly overturned as Lukaku had been adjudged to be in an offside position in the buildup. He had the chance to level right at the end but couldn’t convert his backheel attempt in what was the game’s last action.
Without much further ado, let’s jump into this derby edition of Milan ‘player and manager ratings’.
Gigio Donnarumma — 6.5
The Italian shot stopper was almost faultless the entire game apart from the one shaky moment which led to Lukaku’s goal. He’ll surely look back and realize that he should have done much better to deflect the cross that led to the goal. The Italy international could have used his large frame to parry the ball away from goal. Besides that incident, he was assured in possession and marshalled the defense well throughout the game. A decent outing from him.
Davide Calabria — 7.0
The right back had his best game of the season thus far. He’s made the position his own after some consistent performances. He quite brilliantly beat the press deep in his half and started the move that led to the first goal. The full back constantly joined in the attacks and pocketed Perisic for most of the game. He was caught out for Inter’s goal, but otherwise a good performance.
Simon Kjaer — 7.5
The Danish centre back had a nervous start to the game. Lautaro turned him on several occasions which also led to a booking. But he recovered pretty well as the game wore on and matched Lukaku’s physicality. He made crucial blocks and clearances in the second half, atoning well for his earlier mistakes.
Alessio Romagnoli — 6.5
The Italian centre back had a hard time dealing with the pace and power of Lukaku. He appeared sluggish and was slow to react to the Belgian’s clever movement. This didn’t come as a surprise as he was thrown right in the deep end upon his return from injury. The captain improved as the game wore on and made some important headed clearances to preserve the Rossoneri lead.
Theo Hernandez — 5.5
The Frenchman had his worst game of the season. He was disappointing in both phases of the game. He just didn’t cope defensively against the speed and guile of Hakimi as he constantly got caught out of position, leaving ample space in behind for the Moroccan to exploit. He was uncharacteristically quiet going forward as well. A poor showing from the normally marauding fullback.
Ismael Bennacer — 7.5
The Algerian maestro was everywhere on the pitch displaying incredible energy and dynamism in the middle. He recuperated possession on countless occasions and kept the ball rolling. Bennacer excels at keeping things flowing and simple and he did just that with composure and awareness. Barella didn’t much impact on the game because Bennacer constantly denied him time and space. The Algerian international also sprayed some delightful vertical passes to initiate Milan counter attacks. A quite brilliant performance from Bennacer.
Franck Kessie — 8.0
Franck ‘The Tank’ was a beast throughout the game. He displayed great tenacity and won every one of his duel in the middle of the park. The Ivorian won the midfield battle against Vidal and Brozovic. Franck has become much more composed in possession and maneuvering in tight spaces. This was on full display as wiggled around several challenges to keep the ball moving. He received a booking in the first half in an otherwise faultless performance. It’s wonderful to watch Franck perform at such a high level on a consistent basis.
Alexis Saelemaekers — 6.5
The versatile Belgian has performed rather well and nailed down a place on the right wing. He works hard, tracks back and presses the opponent with great intensity. All these qualities have earned him a permanent spot in Pioli’s pressing machine. He had a decent game although his decision making could further improve. He had good moments, especially on the second goal where he turned his man with a fantastic piece of skill. An overall solid performance.
Hakan Calhanoglu — 7.5
The attacking midfielder continued his sensational run of form by simply running the show in the attacking third. The Turk was heavily involved in the move that led to the first goal as it was his perfectly weighted pass that sent Zlatan through on goal. He had a particularly impressive first half, combining well with his teammates and constantly driving the team forward. Hakan has undergone a renaissance under Pioli after being deployed in his more natural central attacking role. He’s now a nailed down starter in Pioli’s dynamic Milan.
Rafael Leao — 7.0
The talented forward was a constant threat for Inter’s depleted defense. He ran circles around D’Ambrosio on the left hand side and breezed past him with ease on multiple occasions. His speed and movement caused real havoc amongst the Nerazzurri backline. He set up Zlatan’s first goal with a beautiful cross after some neat work down the left wing. He also tracked back at times to help out Theo. A performance to build upon for the Portuguese youngster.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic — 8.5 ( MOTM )
The hero of the derby. The man for the big occasions. Zlatan bagged a brace against his former club. He has a great record in the Milan derbies and that record got better with this one. His first goal was a rebound after missing the initial penalty for a foul by Kolarov. His second goal was a demonstration of his excellent intelligence and movement on the pitch. The Swede brilliantly lost his marker at the far post and applied a cushioned finish via a Leao cross sown the left flank. He won aerial duels and offered the team an outlet when under pressure. He dropped deep at times to linkup play which left space for Leao and Hakan to attack. Zlatan rolled back the years with a vintage display.
Rade Krunic — 6.0
The Bosnian came on for Leao to freshen things up in midfield. The idea was to consolidate the lead in the second half. Krunic was solid but should’ve scored with a golden chance later in the match. A decent option of the bench.
Samu Castillejo — 6.0
The Spaniard replaced Saelemaekers adding energy to the frontline. He could’ve scored via a Zlatan layoff inside the box. He almost had an assist as well for a delightful through ball to fellow substitute Krunic. A positive impact.
Sandro Tonali — 5.5
The Italian maestro made a late appearance but kept his composure to see the game out. It was great to see him in the red and black colors for the derby as he was close to signing for Inter before opting for his beloved Milan.
Stefano Pioli — 6.5
The manager passed the first real test of the season. Although, it wasn’t comfortable in the end. First things first, Pioli got the team selection spot on. The decision to play Leao from the start paid off as the tricky winger provided the assist for Zlatan’s second goal. The approach to the game was absolutely correct as well. Milan asserted their dominance early on playing with urgency and intensity. The plan to pressure the weak backline of Inter paid dividends. Pioli’s men were leading by two goals at half time. The second half, however, was different. The team couldn’t replicate the same intensity in their pressing or transitional play. Everything was rather slower and sloppy. Pioli only made 3 substitutions out of the available 5. The players looked tired and it was the perfect time to bring on someone like Diaz to seal the deal. Pioli has come a long way with the team and it showed in this result. Milan played really good football, and then showed maturity to overcome some pressure to finally win the game. A notable sign of progress and a statement victory for Pioli’s team.