By Kris Voakes at San Siro
AC Milan had perhaps more of the game than they could have wished for in their wildest dreams. They had countless sights of goal, several opportunities to deliver crosses from wide, and quality possession in Inter territory for long periods of the game. But the Rossoneri ended the 211th Derby della Madonnina with a fourth defeat in seven Serie A games as their lack of quality, shortage of confidence and inability to fight off the memories of players lost continue to dog their season.
After their latest major setback they must now face up to the fact that they have a long, hard road ahead of them, with at least six clubs better placed to challenge than Massimiliano Allegri and his men. Where Milan fail to dominate games, and then show an inability to make the most of it when they do achieve a period of supremacy, the likes of Juventus, Napoli, Inter, Lazio, Fiorentina and Roma succeed.
The Bianconeri continue to plug on like a machine, while Napoli match them stride for stride with their new edge which has seen them add efficiency to flair. Lazio’s dream duo of Anderson Hernanes and Miroslav Klose give them a cutting edge Milan could only wish to have, while Fiorentina have the style of Borja Valero and Romulo to add to the substance of Stevan Jovetic. And while the Giallorossi continue to trust in Franceasco Totti to open up more gaps than appear in their own defence, Inter proved in the derby that they have the belligerent edge missing from the Rossoneri lineup.
What’s more, even the likes of Sampdoria look more likely to string together enough wins to make a challenge for the European spots than do Milan, and it has left the Diavolo looking around for scapegoats. This week’s was referee Paolo Valeri, who certainly had far from his best game, but was still not the architect of their downfall.
|MATCH FACTS | Milan 0-1 Inter
Moreover, it was the erratic goalkeeping of Christian Abbiati, the slipshod finishing of Kevin-Prince Boateng, the failure from wide positions of Urby Emanuelson and Mattia De Sciglio, and the lack of a cutting edge from a single player in a red and black shirt to really take on a distinctly average Inter back four. These, and not the officials, were the reasons why the Rossoneri have now earned more points than only five other Serie A clubs this term.
Abbiati came for a fourth-minute free-kick that he was never going to get close to, allowing Walter Samuel to head home from a narrow angle. It would eventually be enough for the Argentine to clinch a 10th victory in 10 Milan derbies, but the Italian keeper very nearly gifted a second when passing straight to Diego Milito moments later, only for the striker to fluff his own lines.
Thereafter, it was Milan who made much of the running, but that’s where their deepest failures began. Emanuelson refused to use his right foot even once, despite spending most of the game on the right-hand side, meaning he was all too easy to mark, while De Sciglio’s lack of a convincing left foot meant that good positions were often wasted by the imprecision of crosses from the left too.
But even when Emanuelson switched to left-back later on and got a couple of telling crosses in, the Rossoneri had nobody to turn them in. For the first time this season, they really had a team on the rack, but they just couldn’t make Inter pay. Two of the Nerazzurri’s back three couldn’t match the quality displayed by Samuel, yet Allegri’s side had no incision with which to punish them.
Valeri came into the equation when he whistled for a free-kick after Emanuelson and Samir Handanovic collided as the Slovenian came out to punch away a through-ball, meaning Riccardo Montolivo’s shot into the empty net stood for nothing. In a game where physical contact should be expected, play should arguably have been allowed to continue. Then there was the decision not to penalise Samuel for putting an arm across the onrushing Robinho late on, but perhaps he thought the Brazilian made too much of it.
On the one hand, Milan were penalised by those calls, but they still failed to find a way past 10 men for the final 42 minutes following Yuto Nagatomo’s sending-off for two bookable offences, and the bottom line is that the blame lines with all of those of a red and black persuasion.
The board failed to make the right moves in the summer. The coach has proven unable to take this squad forward. The players are showing with each passing game that they’re not up to the job of becoming challengers at the top end. When you compare the Rossoneri with the current top six, they are not only short in terms of league position, they are also lacking in squad strength and quality.
Milan sit 11th in the table not only because their start has been bad, but because they really are that bad. Things may get slightly better in the coming weeks, but if the truth be told, they are not as good as any of the best half-dozen sides, meaning that a top-eight finish is about the best they can hope for in their current state.
Inter were functional at best and rarely looked like a top-three side, but still their city rivals couldn’t break them down. And that is just how it is at the moment. Milan, once the fine wine of Italian football, are now the contents of the spit bucket, searching aimlessly for a miracle to make them believe in glory once more, and the league table accurately reflects their position in calcio right now.
- Juventus continued on their merry way as they added a 46th game to their unbeaten run, seeing off Siena at the Franchi Montepaschi. While the Robur gave them a scare for long spells, a raising of the tempo in the second half always seemed likely to result in a victory for Antonio Conte's men, and Claudio Marchisio ensured they stayed top of the league going into the break. Being able to play below your best and still winning is supposedly an art form, and Juve currently have the whole scenario imprinted on their DNA.
- Napoli remain level at the top after Marek Hamsik and Goran Pandev netted to overcome a decent effort by Udinese. While Edinson Cavani remains their obvious stand-out, the two goalscorers are also set to have a big say in the Partenopei's fortunes this term. Add to that a seemingly new-found ability to eek out results where they may have tripped up in times previous, and the Neapolitan faithful have reason to believe they can remain Juventus' biggest rivals for the remainder of the campaign. Their round eight fixture may tell them much about their side though ... they're away to Juve!
- Abbiati wasn't the only goalkeeper to supply a telling gaffe over the weekend, as Sergio Romero's error proved costly for Sampdoria, whose winless run stretched to a fourth game. Just as it appeared that the Blucerchiati had managed to earn a point at Chievo, the Argentina No.1 somehow allowed David Di Michele's speculative effort to go straight through his hands, gifting Eugenio Corini with a debut win on the Flying Donkeys' bench. Much was made of the decision by the Chievo players to continue despite Samp having a man lying prone on the ground, but that shouldn't take away from a schoolboy mistake by the usually assured shot-stopper.