After the game Leonardo said that Pato's first minute goal changed everything. But there were 89 minutes left. Plenty of time to turn the game around. The inconvenient truth for the Brazilian coach was that his woeful tactical choices combined with the lack of hunger of his players were the two main factors behind AC Milan's sudden resurrection. Inter's starting eleven were defeat bound before the kickoff. And when your contribution to your opponent's fortunes is more decisive than their own merits you need to admit it and change.
• AC Milan blog: Derby dreams
Choosing to play with a light two-man midfield against the most muscular diamond in the whole Italian league was suicidal. There was no way Thiago Motta and Cambiasso [both very static and incapable to tackle, their ball-stealing abilities rely only on good positioning] could win any ball against the likes of Gattuso, Seedorf, Boateng and Van Bommel. In fact they didn't.
The only chance for this 4-2-1-3 formation to work needed a pressing à la Sacchi from the four forwards. But among Sneijder, Pandev, Pazzini and Eto'o only the Cameroon striker possesses enough legs and will do this job incessantly. But what a waste it would be. Eto'o on the left was Mourinho's crime but no one dared to argue with the Portuguese. Not even Eto'o. Benitez restored Inter's number 9 as a proper forward and Leonardo stuck to it firmly, until the Derby. Why changing? Playing Eto'o so wide was suicidal - far from the penalty box and never close to Abate. A huge mistake.
In the first 30 minutes Motta and Cambiasso were always outplayed and AC Milan could have doubled their lead if Rizzoli would have awarded a penalty for a Maicon hand touch. Some Julio Cesar saves and the crossbar (hit by Van Bommel) kept Inter hopes alive. When AC Milan's midfielders retreated the Champions of Europe began to play. It happened in the last ten minutes of the first half. A very short spell but enough to create two clear goal opportunities with Thiago Motta (denied by a great save from Abbiati) and Eto'o (missed a sitter). In the second half, after only nine minutes, Chivu was sent off for fouling Pato as the last man. Inter reaction? No trace. Just like the invisible 30 minutes played by Milito. Unfortunately for Inter and Leonardo the League title's gone but the upcoming Champions League fixture with Schalke is a perfect timed opportunity to put this painful defeat out of their mind.
A defeat which can turn out to be an invaluable lesson for a young coach like the Brazilian - to play attacking football you need the ball first. Inter and Leo can start their second coming from here.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Leonardo. Against his former team the Brazilian coach took a gamble. A very big gamble. And he lost. Simple as that. He's been the driving force behind Inter's memorable recover in the league, now he's the main culprit of the Derby defeat. Big coaches learn from their mistakes and Leonardo will learn.
Serie A 2010-11 / Day 31
AC MILAN-INTER 3-0 (1-0)
AC Milan: Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Zambrotta; Van Bommel, Gattuso (Flamini 51'), Seedorf; Boateng; Pato (Emanuelson 84'), Robinho (Cassano 80'). Coach: Allegri
Inter: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Ranocchia, Chivu (Cordoba 55'), Zanetti; Cambiasso (Stankovic 71'), Thiago Motta; Sneijder; Pandev, Pazzini (Milito 62'), Eto'o. Coach: Leonardo
Goals: Pato 1', 62', Cassano 90' penalty
Yellow cards: Robinho, Van Bommel, Zambrotta; Maicon, Zanetti
Red cards: Cassano 92'; Chivu 54'
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