Neither side had too far to travel ahead of the first leg of this UEFA Champions League semifinal, as fans were treated to the fourth Milanese derby of the season. As mentioned in our pre-match preview, the sides have shared the spoils domestically – but it was Inter that prevailed in January’s Supercoppa Italiana.
ACM: Maignan; Hernandez, Tomori, Kjaer, Calabria; Tonali, Krunic; Saelemaekers, Bennacer, Diaz; Giroud
INT: Onana; Bastoni, Acerbi, Darmian; Dimarco, Mkhitaryan, Calhanoglu, Barella, Dumfries; Dzeko, Martinez
The electric atmosphere at the San Siro shouldn’t have been a surprise given the way the last European meeting between these two sides ended – and that was only intensified as Inter took the lead eight minutes in to the match. Hakan Calhanoglu’s corner was volleyed into the top-right corner by Edin Dzeko, who had given the ‘visitors’ the perfect start.
I Nerazzurri didn’t have to wait long to double their advantage, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan bagged their second in the 11th minute. After being played through on goal by Federico Dimarco, the Armenian fired past Mike Maignan from close range to really get the party started in the blue half of the city.
They came close to finding a third goal within fifteen minutes, as Calhanoglu’s strike from outside the box struck the foot of the post – and Mkhitaryan’s effort was blasted straight at Maignan. Simone Inzaghi’s side had certainly been the brighter of the two competitors in the opening stages.
AC Milan looked to claw one back and reduce the deficit – and while Davide Calabria managed to get on the end of Junior Messias’ cross, he fired into the side netting.
Things looked to turn from bad to worse for the ‘hosts’ though, as Inter were awarded a penalty with just over thirty minutes played. Simon Kjaer was judged to have downed Lautaro Martinez inside the area, but VAR overturned the decision – despite the challenge looking like a clear foul. Martinez looked to punish the Rossonerri defence by himself though, firing an effort narrowly over the bar from outside the area less than five minutes after that VAR intervention.
AC Milan looked rejuvenated after the break, as Diaz came close to clawing one back in the 50th minute. Driving forward, the winger released an effort from the edge of the box – but his effort trickled just wide of the far post.
Junior Messias was the next player to carve a hole in the Inter defence, but the winger looked to have taken his shot early. After breaking into the box, he attempted to curl an effort towards the far post – but his effort crept wide under very little pressure.
Stefano Pioli’s side appeared to have committed bodies forward, and they were almost made to pay for that choice. Alessandro Bastoni surged towards the opposite defence, laying the ball off to Edin Dzeko – though the Bosnian’s low strike was kept out of the back of the net by Mike Maignan’s legs.
AC Milan came close yet again with 25 minutes still to play, as Oliver Giroud opted to tee up Sandro Tonali rather than taking the shot on himself. The Italian midfielder’s strike clattered the woodwork though – but despite failing to score so far, there had been clear signs of improvement in the second half.
Matteo Darmian looked to find space inside the box to extend Inter’s lead – but Malick Thiaw was primed and ready to deny the defender from close-range.
The drama was far from over, as a VAR Check with fifteen minutes left on the clock could have seen Rade Krunic dismissed. The Bosnian midfielder was alleged to have elbowed Alessandro Bastoni in the ribs inside the penalty area – but the replays showed that he hadn’t committed a foul.
There were to be late chances for Milan to reduce the deficit in the final five minutes, as Roberto Gagliardini fouled Theo Hernandez in a dangerous area. The Frenchman blazed his set-piece high and wide though, with his rather disappointing effort audibly booed by the crowd.
Deep in stoppage time, Tommaso Pobega rifled an effort from the edge of the box straight into the arms of Andre Onana – in a move that summed up AC Milan’s attacking output.
Ultimately, Stefano Pioli’s side just weren’t able to match their local rivals tonight. Despite a much improved second half, AC Milan managed just two shots on target throughout the course of the game -and they’ll need to be ruthless going forward in the return leg next week. For Simone Inzaghi’s Internazionale, it was a high-quality performance that’s seen them put one foot in the final already. They’ll benefit from the home advantage next week as they look to claim the city’s bragging rights.