Towards the end of 2011-12 Serie A season both Milanese clubs were headed in opposite directions. For the Nerazzurri, it was a campaign to forget while the Rossoneri were in hunt for their second straight Scudetto under the management of Max Allegri.
After the departure of Leonardo, Inter struggled to regain momentum and used up another two managers and finally settled on Andrea Stramaccioni. With the hopes of Champions League football in following season all but lost, the team was focused on finishing the season strong and building for the following season. Under the guidance of Stramaccioni, Inter had only lost one game heading into Derby Della Madonnina.
On the other end, AC Milan were in a tight Scudetto race against an Antonio Conte led Juventus side who were ahead by just one point with two games left in the season. Allegri’s side had absolutely no room to drop points as the season was coming to a close and Juventus had easier schedule of the two sides.
Heading into round thirty-seven match against their cross-town rivals, Milan had only lost twice in three months leading up to the derby. With both form and consistency on their side, the Rossoneri went into the derby more confident of the two teams.
Starting for the Nerazzurri was Julio Cesar in goal with defense backline of Maicon, Lucio, Walter Samuel and Yuto Nagatomo. A Midfield double pivot of Fredy Guarin and Esteban Cambiasso, with Ricky Alvarez and Javier Zanetti on either wing. Wesley Sneijder played behind Diego Milito who was the lone striker in a 4-4-1-1 formation.
For the Rossoneri, Christian Abbiati started in goal with a defense of from the right Ignazio Abate, Alessandro Nesta, Mario Yepes and Daniele Bonera. A midfield trio of Sulley Muntari, Mark Van Bommel and Antonio Nocerino played behind Kevin Prince Boateng who was the trequartista behind the striker partnership of Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The San Siro was packed to the rafter and the atmosphere was as amazing as it can only be at this iconic stadium. The teams started the match with an attacking mindset down both ends. Milan got the first scoring opportunity as Robinho’s cross from the left wing found an inside run of Ibrahimovic who shot from point blank range, but the shot went over the bar.
However it was Inter who took the early 1-0 lead following a well taken set-piece from Wesley Sneijder who from the halfway line, who found Walter Samuel at the far left post unmarked. The Rossoneri defenders stopped in their tracks expecting an offside call, however the flag stayed down and Milito scored following Samuel’s pass to give the home side the lead at the fourteen-minute mark.
Shortly after Christian Abbiati made a fantastic goal-line save on Cambiasso’s header to deny Inter a second goal. For Milan Robinho’s speed and dribbling ability posed a threat for Nerazzurri defenders. In the first half, he consistently dragged the central defenders outside the box to the left wing, allowing Nocerino and Boateng to make late runs inside the box to create scoring opportunities for themselves and Ibrahimović.
This constant movement was causing man-marking issues and exploited the weakness on Nagatomo’s side of Inter’s defense. As the match headed towards half-time, Boateng was “brought down” inside the box by Julio Cesar and penalty was gifted to Ac Milan. Ibrahimovic tied the match at 1-1 heading into the break.
Hampered by injuries, Allegri was forced to make changes as both Abbiati and Bonera were both injured in first half. Taking their place were Marco Amelia and Mattia De Sciglio. Stramaccioni seeing the changes, adjusted the approach in second half by attacking dropping Zanetti back from the midfield and allowing Maicon to make runs forward to provide width to the Nerazzurri attack.
Before the adjustment could show results, Ibrahimovic, despite being marked by both Samuel and Lucio, flicked the ball into open space and chipped the ball past Julio Cesar to give Milan a 1-2 lead just a minute into the second half. With one eye on the scoreboard to see the score from Turin as Juventus was taking on Cagliari, Milan focused on defending the lead, allowing more possession to Inter.
This bit of adjustment from Allegri, shifted the momentum in favor of the Nerazzurri. A series of two penalties in quick concession caused by Abate and Nesta, resulted in Inter coming back into the match and taking a lead 3-2 with eleven minutes left in the match. Allegri committed more men forward, using his last substitution to bring on Cassano for Muntari.
However, Inter defenses brilliantly shut down all Milan scoring opportunities. As game was winding down, a counter-attack opportunity lead to Maicon scoring a wonder goal thirty-five yards out from the right wing straight into the far-left post. The thunderous strike took the air out of the Rossoneri as Inter put the game out of reach with a 4-2 scoreline with only 2 minutes left in the match.
The loss against Inter gave Juventus a four-point advantage in the Scudetto race, as Milan finished the season as runners-up. Diego Milito was man-of-the-match after scoring a hat-trick and continuing his fantastic scoring record against Milan in the derby.