Antonio Conte’s plan to return the Serie A title to Inter Milan by building an ex-Premier League XI remains on track after his team of familiar faces has completed an exciting comeback against their city rivals.
For a long time, it seemed that Conte’s collection of former stars from the English top flight would be overshadowed by the power of the personality of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who helped set AC Milan to two.
Still, Alexis Sanchez created the second and third goal – undesirable by Manchester United – when Inter was equal to Juventus at the top of the Serie A. Then, on loan from Chelsea, Victor Moses created the fourth for Sanchez’s former United teammate Romelu Lukaku in downtime to seal the profit.
Inter-striker Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring the fourth goal on his side on a memorable night
Stefan de Vrij (L) celebrates his looping header that completed the remarkable turnaround
Matias Vecino scored a matter for Inter after Brozovic narrowed the deficit
INTER MILAN 4-2 AC MILAN – EQUAL FACTS
Inter Milan: Padelli, Goddess, Free, Skriniar, Candreva, Vecino, Brozovic, Barella, Young, Lukaku, Sanchez
Goals: Brozovic 51, Vecino 53, the Vrij 70, Lukaku 90 + 4
Bookings: Skriniar, Vecino, Barella, Lukaku
AC Milan: Donnarumma, Conti, Kjaer, Romagnoli, Hernandez, Castillejo, Kessie, Bennacer, Rebic, Calhanoglu, Ibrahimovic
Goals: Rebic 40, Ibrahimovic 45 + 1
Bookings: Kessie, Conti
That seemed highly unlikely during the break. In the first 45 minutes, none of Conte’s five signings of the English top flight had as great an impact on this match as 38-year-old Ibrahimovic, who made the first for Ante Rebic, scored the second and the Inter bullyed line again.
But then the second half goals from Marcelo Brozovic, Matias Vecino and Stefan De Vrij changed the story drastically, and Christian Eriksen – as a substitute – hit the bar with a free kick of 35 meters.
Conte added Lukaku and Sanchez from Manchester United last summer before bringing in Ashley Young, Moses and Eriksen in January – and yet it was an English cast-off, goalkeeper Daniele Padelli, who could have ruined Inter’s night.
Padelli only appeared once during a five-month loan in Liverpool in 2006-07, and here we saw why.
He only played due to an injury to the regular goalkeeper Samir Handanovic and the first two goals came thanks to the howler monkeys of the unfortunate Padelli.
Marcelo Brozovic scored a brilliant volley to give Inter a route back to the game
In the early stages of the game, the new guys from Inter were no better. At the back left Young looked nervous while Sanchez struggled to make an impact during an attack and Lukaku barely touched the ball when Eriksen and Moses started on the bench.
Amid the spectacular color and choreography, the feeling of fear among the Inter fans was still clear. After Juventus’ surprising defeat last night / Saturday in Verona, this was a match they did not dare to lose – especially in their “home” derby.
With three-quarters of the 75,000 sold-out crowd pushing for Inter and hissing every time a player from Milan touched the ball, the stage seemed ready for the men of Conte, whose team looked much more powerful.
The days of Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko are long gone for Milan, with Ibrahimovic the only return to a more successful era. Yet they made a much more composed start to this competition than Inter, threatening the flanks and causing problems for the Inter-wing-backs, Young and Antonio Candreva.
Ex-Inter’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic had given AC Milan a 2-0 lead just before half-time
They may have taken the lead in the ninth minute when Hakan Calhanoglu, their Turkish playmaker, hit the post from 25 meters.
However, Lukaku-ster proved in the 24th minute that he could scare off a defense like a few attackers worldwide with an exciting mid-burst that Alessio Romagnoli left behind.
Lukaku then chose Matias Vecino with a low cross, only for the Uruguayan midfielder to shoot Gianluigi Donnarumma straight. The opportunity had disappeared and Lukaku looked desperately at the sky.
Earlier, Diego Godin had led Sanchez’s right hook just far from the far post, but that wasn’t enough to alleviate tension in the stands or on the sidelines, where Conte walked and fiddled as his team stuttered.
His mood went dark again when Milan took the well-deserved lead five minutes before the break. Castillejo hit the ball to Ibrahimovic, who Goddess jumped to bring the ball back to the danger zone where Padelli – inexplicably – hit the ball on Rebic’s path, which turned him home.
The Swedish striker scored on Sunday with a header in the back against his former club
Padelli wasn’t ready there either. When Frank Kessie hit a corner, Ibrahimovic headed the goal forward – where Padelli certainly should have kept it out. Instead, he could only push the ball into the corner.
Ibrahimovic was at Inter from 2006-2009 and helped them to consecutive titles under Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho although, judging from his reaction to the goal, little of that love remains.
The Swede seemed to be mocking his old fans and seemed to be blowing a kiss in their direction – with some supporters reacting by launching rockets in his direction.
Inter needed a quick start after the break – and they found it with two goals within three minutes. First Brozovic saluted home from the edge of the penalty area after Candreva’s cross had run on Romagnoli, and then Vecino came close after Sanchez away from Donnarumma before hitting his teammate in the field.
Ante Rebic scored the first goal of the game after a howler by Inter-keeper Daniele Padelli
On the couch, they celebrated raw before Conte brought his index fingers to his temples to emphasize the need for concentration among his players. They followed his orders in the 70th minute when Sanchez delivered a right hook and De Vrij produced a great header in the top corner.
After Eriksen’s remarkable free kick, Ibrahimovic headed a post in the last minute of the normal time before Mozes crossed over to Lukaku in the fourth.
Almost the entire Inter-bank ran to celebrate with Lukaku in the corner. Perhaps this is the year that the Premier League Inter lends a hand with their first title for a decade.