After Italy’s success at the world stage in 2006 as the nation was crowned World Champions, Serie A was at it’s peak despite the Calciopoli scandal. After being crowned Serie A champions in 2005-06, Inter enjoyed one their most dominant seasons a year later, finishing with 97 points, a resounding 22 points gap against second placed Roma and going on a seventeen-game winning streak, a league record back the.
On the other hand, AC Milan despite winning their record seventh Champion’s League crown that year, had an underwhelming Serie A campaign, finishing fourth in the league.
Going into the Derby della Madonnina in round nine, Inter were the in form team among the two giants. Winning five out of their first eight matches, the Nerazzurri were undefeated thus far. With the likes of Hernan Crespo and Zlatan Ibrahimović leading the attack, Inter were consistently outscoring their opponents easily. With the team only managing one clean sheet through eight rounds, AC Milan despite their early season troubles were hoping to stop the high-powered offense and take advantage of the weak defensive performance from their cross-town rivals.
However, with the Rossoneri were struggles leading up to the all important derby, winning just one out of their previous five matches in which they struggled to score against bottom and mid-table sides such as Palermo, Sienna and Livorno, the momentum was in favor of the Nerazzurri.
Roberto Mancini in his third season in charge, had Inter lining up in a 4-3-1-2 formation with Julio Cesar in goal and defensive line of Grosso, Materazzi, Cordoba and Maicon. Midfield trio of Dacourt, Vieira, captain Zanetti and Stankovic as the trequartista behind Crespo and Ibrahimović.
Carlo Ancelotti had the Rossoneri lined up in a Christmas tree formation of 4-3-2-1 with Dida in goal and defense of Cafu, Nesta, Kaladze and Jankulovski. The midfield trio were captain Ambrosini, Gattuso, Pirlo and Kaka, Seedorf tandem behind Pipo Inzaghi as the lone striker.
The first chance of the match came from a Pirlo free-kick into the box which was met at the far post by a completely unmarked Kaladze, however the center-back struck the volley over the goal post from close range. The Rossoneri missed their chance from a set-piece however the Nerazzurri capitalized on their first real attempt on goal and took the lead following Stankovic free-kick which was powerfully headed home by Crespo, giving the away side the early goal advantage.
Five minutes later, a thunderous long range Stankovic missile from outside the box added a second goal for Inter. Going into the half-time the game seemed to remain in balance as both sides went toe-to-toe in attacking and looking for the next goal, however acrobatic saves from Julio Cesar kept a clean sheet through first half.
As second half got underway, the Rossoneri used all three substitutes replacing Ambrosini, Jankulovski, Inzaghi with Ricardo Oliveira, Paolo Maldini and Alberto Gilardino, as Ancelotti pushed his side to get back on level terms. Soon after play resumed, a quick counter-attack from Inter forced an error from Kaladze leaving Ibrahimovic wide open.
With only Dida to beat after having chipped the ball over Alessandro Nesta, Zlatan gave the Nerazzurri a three-goal advantage. With the momentum firmly with Inter, the Rossoneri kept fighting to stay alive in the match and caught an early break in second half as a Clarence Seedorf shot took a heavy deflection from Marco Materazzi and looped in behind a diving Julio Cesar to pull a goal back for Milan.
Seeing the Rossoneri piling on pressure in attack, Mancini made a double substitution by replacing Grosso and Dacourt with Burdisso and Figo. The Portuguese talisman took a brilliant free-kick, placing the ball perfectly for Marco Materazzi to head home Inter’s fourth goal of the game, 1-4 in favor of the Nerazzurri with twenty-one minutes remaining. The match seemed to be headed to one-sided finish with the visitors going way with a resounding win against their cross-town rivals.
However the match turned red instantly as Materazzi, having picked up a yellow card earlier on in the match, was inexplicably shown a second yellow card for his goal celebration where he pulled his jersey over his head in excitement. Inter were down to 10-men with almost quarter of the match yet to play.
With the man advantage in their favor, the Rossoneri attack kicked into high gear immediately. Seven minutes after the red card, Cafu whipped a perfect cross inside the box for his target man and half-time substitute Alberto Gilardino who comfortably headed home Milan’s second goal of the match. Inter were visibly missing the areal thread of Materazzi. Milan were firmly in control of the match despite being down by two goals. Mancini, in his attempt to retain the lead, replaced Ibrahimovic with Walter Samuel to better deal with the areal threat from the Rossoneri attack.
As the game came close to a finish, Milan added a third goal in added time from a Pirlo corner-kick which forced Julio Cesar to come off his line to clear the ball, however he only managed to punch it straight to Kaka outside the box how chipped everyone and brought the game within one goal with just minutes left on the clock! Julio Cesar had a tremendous game, keeping his side in the match throughout the match, making number of world-class acrobatic saves.
As the game edged closer to the finish line, Milan came close to tying the match after yet another Andrea Pirlo set-piece however Gilardino header went centimeters wide of the goal post.
The referee blew the whistle for full-time and the pressure lifted off the Nerazzurri as fans and players celebrated a hard-fought win. This kicked off Inter’s record seventeen game winning streak while AC Milan, despite a fantastic hard-fought game, would go on to win just one game out of their next seven matches.