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Chinese fireworks! Milan, Inter & Serie A all winners after dramatic derby draw at spectacular San Siro

1:00 PM GMT 15/04/2017
Antonio Candreva Inter AC Milan derby
The two sides were scrapping for sixth place in Serie A but the pair's performances suggested both have bright futures under their new owners


A sold-out San Siro, an estimated television audience of 862 million, two talented teams playing at full pelt and a fittingly dramatic finish - the first ever 'Chinese Derby' was, in every sense, a spectacular success.

The game was drawn but, to the neutral, this looked like a victory for both sides - and, perhaps more importantly, Italian football as a whole. It has been too long since one of the most prestigious fixtures in football could be called a major event and this was, lest we forget, a San Siro showdown between two sides scrapping for sixth place in Serie A.

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However, Milan's fans celebrated Cristian Zapata's 96th-minute equaliser like they had won an eighth European Cup, while their Inter counterparts were left disconsolate. This mattered to them. More importantly, it felt like it finally mattered again to football fans across the globe.

It might not look like it right now for the Nerazzurri but this was the kind of match that these two clubs needed. The world was watching, intrigued by the prospect by these old rivals being reinvigorated by new money, and the pair produced an exhilarating spectacle, from start to finish.

Indeed, both sets of players seemed determined to put on a show worthy of the incredible coreografie that had preceded the kick-off.

The Curva Sud had channelled the spirit of Robin Hood, declaring, "For us bandits, you are unwelcome guests." It was Inter, though, who looked more like canny thieves, with the 'hosts' nicking a goal against the run of play in the 36th minute.

Mattia De Sciglio may have been to blame for losing the flight of the ball but there was so much to admire in the way in which Roberto Gagliardini picked out the run of Antonio Candreva with a lofted, 40-metre pass from halfway - while the winger's hooked finish over the advancing Gigio Donnarumma wasn't too shabby either.

The goal understandably rocked the Rossoneri, who had earlier struck the woodwork through the electric Gerard Deulofeu, and Inter took full advantage, doubling their advantage with another splendidly-worked strike.

Mauro Icardi had come into the derby without a goal in his previous three Serie A outings but he ended his mini-drought in fine style, chesting Ivan Perisic's pass back into the winger's path before then racing into the area to side-foot home the resulting cross.

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The two combined wonderfully well all afternoon and really should have produced another goal 10 minutes into the second half when Icardi found Perisic with a perfectly-weighted ball across the Milan box only for the Croatian to shoot tamely at Donnarumma.

It proved a pivotal moment in an enthralling contest as Milan - inspired by Deulofeu, the game's outstanding player - never stopped attacking and deservedly halved their deficit when Alessio Romagnoli impressively stabbed home a Suso cross with just seven minutes remaining to set up the grandstand finish that the game, and indeed the occasion, merited.

The Rossoneri looked to have run out of time as the clock ticked past the allotted five minutes of injury time but they were afforded one last corner by referee Daniele Orsato. Incredibly, they made it count, with Manuel Locatelli flicking Deulofeu's corner into the path of Zapata, who drove the ball over the line - via the cross bar - despite the best efforts of Gary Medel.

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Milan were as joyous as Inter were crestfallen but both sides should take a huge amount of encouragement out of a high-quality encounter. Vincenzo Montella's Milan are only going to get better - particularly with the addition of some quality, experienced signings this summer. Indeed, it is worth pointing out that, over the course of the game, they fielded eight players aged 24 or under.

The Derby also underlined the massive improvement in Inter's fortunes since Stefano Pioli replaced the disastrous Frank de Boer at the helm. This makes it four games without a win for the Nerazzurri, with Icardi admitting just after the full-time whistle that he and his team-mates were "sickened" by the result.

However, at times, they again looked like the coming force they appeared to be in matching Juventus in the Derby d'Italia earlier this year and the big-name players that they are presently being linked with suggests that they, too, have a bright future ahead of them.

Zapata enthused afterwards, "It was a very intense derby, both teams played well and in the end the draw was a fair result. We’re on the right track."

He may as well have been speaking for both sides. Yonghong Li had claimed beforehand that Milan's new owners, just like the Suning Group, are primarily focused taking small steps on the road to recovery. However, just making the Derby a major event again felt like a pretty big one - for everyone involved.