Today was the day many of us Interisti have been waiting for and for more than one reason. Not only was it the “Derby della Madonnina” or the Milan Derby but also it was our new/old coach Manicini’s first test. Our beloved Nerazzurri entered this match in 9th place in the championship, coming off an uninspired draw with Hellas Verona, which culminated in the sacking of the unpopular Walter Mazzarri. AC Milan arrived at the Meazza in 8th, just one point up on Inter in the standings and was coming off a 2-2 draw with Sampdoria. Statistically, out of the 36 Serie A derbies between these sides AC Milan has a slight edge with 12 wins, while Inter has 11 and 13 matches have ended in a draw.
More than a few changes took place in the Inter lineup as Mancini chose to deploy a 4-3-1-2 formation. The new look back line had Nagatomo and Dodò in fullback positions with Ranocchia and Juan Jesus in between them. In midfield Inter had Obi, Guarin and Kuzmanovic and Kovacic started in the trequartista position behind the strike-duo of Icardi and Palacio. Hernanes, M’Vila and Osvaldo were only fit for the bench. Before anything is said, the Curva did an excellent job right from the start tonight. From the tifo right to the final whistle they were great.
Inter began the match with the type of urgency that was missing under much of the Mazzarri era, especially considering the slow-pace of these games last season but this was the Milan Derby and there is no excuse for lacking passion here. Inter were not holding the enough possession at the start and were looking vulnerable on the counter, while Dodò was having some issues getting back to help out. However, growing pains are to be expected after switching managers and formations this week. Inter and Milan had penalty appeals in the first few minutes as well after Mexes pulled Icardi down and Juan Jesus clattered into Essien.
Inter really should have gone up 1-0 before 10 minutes after a Muntari pass ended up on the boot of Icardi, who was alone 1 on 1 with the keeper. Icardi was unable to finish his chance and in these games you can drop points for missing a single opportunity. After 10 minutes Inter began to take more control of the match and the urgency remained but the quality of the play remained low. The passion was showing through but the ability is obviously not where it should be, especially with the number of injuries. There were some worrying moments for Inter when Muntari made a horrible tackle, driving his elbow to the face of Dodò. Dodò was left bleeding on the pitch and needed to come off for treatment but thankfully he returned to the soon after. Moreover, Mexes could have easily taken two yellows in the first half after many poor challenges but escaped to the break on a single yellow.
Joel Obi was having a rough time in the midfield and often looked one step behind the game. Obi was punished for this as well as he lost Menez in the box and the player was able to turn in an El Shaarawy cross without any competition for the ball. Inter seemed to lose a bit of momentum at this point and although they seemed to be holding the ball, they were not making the most of it and Milan would take their lead into the break.
Individually, Kovacic was not getting enough of the ball as he was forced to come out wide to receive it a lot of the time, while Palacio also seemed to be having to come deep to receive the ball and did a ton of running in the first half. Finally, Freddy Guarin is always dangerous with possession of the ball outside the box as he can punish opponents with his long-range shots. However, his most frustrating attribute has to be when he dwells on the ball. There were multiple occasions where the momentum on the counter attack was lost due to Guarin keeping possession for too long.
Inter started with more of the ball in the second half and had a series of corners that did not materialize into a definitive chance. Inter were keeping the ball in the Milan half but there was an element of creativity and quality missing that was necessary for the goal. However, seemingly out of nowhere Joel Obi burst through the middle and hit a curling shot back across goal and into the net and Inter were level 1-1. Obi certainly seemed like one of the least likely players on the pitch to have this sort of impact. At this point the formation seemed to change to a 4-3-3, which saw Kovacic moving out wide on the left, which I personally do not like to see. It seems like a waste to have such a quality player out on a wing.
Hernanes was brought on to the field for the goal scorer Obi in order to bring a bit more creativity into the game but Hernanes had a poor showing and seemed to be missing the tempo of the match, often letting the ball run too far from his feet. The crossing was also very poor. Both Nagatomo and Dodo were doing a lot of running but were unable to provide quality crosses into the box as they basically all ended up into the hands of Lopez. At both ends there were great chances to go up with El Shaarway and Icardi both putting their efforts off the bar.
Mancini brought on Osvaldo for Icardi in the 88th and then added M’Vila in injury time but it was much too late for either to really make an impact, which is unfortunate. Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come from the coach, as Inter need a decisive manager and changes earlier in the half would have been welcomed. I will give him the benefit of the doubt as he barely had any time to prepare for this match and pulled off a draw with a less than top quality squad of players. This was a game where often either team could win and either team could definitely have won this match. Inter will need to finish their chances better if they are going to make the most of the rest of this season under Mancini. Special mention should go to Juan Jesus who played with grinta and passion but should also be cautious of where that passion takes him, as he is sometimes prone to make needles fouls in bad areas of the pitch. I would have loved three points but I will take one tonight.