The trend continued in Milan, where at his first attempt Ranieri added another derby win to his already impressive tally. And no one could deny against AC Milan it was mainly a Ranieri win, as he'd have been the number one culprit in the event of a defeat.
Possible accusations could’ve included: 1. sticking to his 4-4-2 formation; 2. sticking with out-of-form Pazzini as his starting forward; 3. sticking with out-of-position Alvarez on the left; 4. leaving Sneijder out for most of the game; 5. showing no confidence in any youngster (again); 6. choosing to defend so deep and to allow AC Milan to dictate game's tempo.
There were many question marks, but in the end Inter won according to their best tradition. Under former managers Herrera, Bersellini and Trapattoni silverware came through catenaccio and/or counterattack. And it's no coincidence that the most memorable moment of Jose Mourinho's tenure was the heroic 1-0 defeat of Barcelona at Camp Nou in the 2010 Champions League second leg semi-final that sent Inter to the final in Madrid. That was the ultimate Inter "win" and Ranieri seems only too happy to restore that mentality: if you win no one will mention how poor or bad the game was.
A goal scored by Thiago Motta and ruled out after just four minutes and a Van Bommel shot that hit the crossbar at the end of the first half could have written a very different script. But the only goal of the game came from Diego Milito, who's the epitome of Ranieri's work and approach so far. We must give credit where credit is due; Ranieri was the architect of this sixth consecutive win, which moved Inter to within six points of Serie A leaders Juventus.
From day one, the former Roma coach chose to give confidence to the old guard, confidence reaffirmed with words, choices and actions. If Ranieri was the one who laid out the foundation, let's see, one by one, the workers who built this derby win.
Julio Cesar. Saved by the crossbar from Van Bommel's 20-yard, powerful shot, he was ready to save Emanuelson's attempt on the rebound. The Brazilian goalkeeper made three more decisive saves on minutes 76 (Pato), 83 (Seedorf), 85 (Robinho).
Maicon. One of the most penalised for the tactical choice to defend so deep. He tried to sprint forward two or three times but he lacked the usual acceleration as too tired by marking Pato, who was the most lively among AC Milan forwards in the first half. A huge defensive workload that undermined the attacking part of Maicon's game: the old fullback who was able to run 80 yards up and down for nearly the whole game is long gone.
Lucio. Caught slightly out of position two or three times, the Brazilian always recovered, even with some vital fouls. In the second half, very good in a couple of one to ones against Ibrahimovic.
Samuel. The best. Insuperable. Inter's back four director, added another majestic performance to his illustrious career.
Nagatomo. Paired with Alvarez on the left in a defensive game looked a strange choice, as both players had to focus on the weakest part of their game. Allegri, who proved once more to be overrated as a tactician, didn't test the strange pairing, leaving Pato on the other side. When Chivu replaced Alvarez, Nagatomo was finally free to attack and in the 72nd minute came close to making it 2-0.
Zanetti. Only a monumental Samuel could match the skipper’s superb performance. Nothing new, we know. And, again, it was no coincidence who started the counter-attack that led to Milito's goal: Samuel blocked Nocerino, then passed to Zanetti who ran for 30 yards before sending the winning ball on Milito's path.
Thiago Motta. Had a goal disallowed, despite being clearly onside. Motta combined well with Cambiasso in front of the defence. Usually they split roles (the playmaker and the anchor), this time they split the same task to press and defend. Motta was surprisingly focused and committed for the whole game.
Cambiasso. Maybe helped by Allegri’s decision to stick with Emanuelson in the trequartista role, the Argentinian gave a lesson about positioning of a holding midfielder. One of his best performances in recent times.
Alvarez. Asked to do what he can’t do, so he didn't create anything up front but also didn't make any mistakes behind. Useless? Not really. At least his presence urged Abate not to go forward. And the only time Ricky left the wing, he nearly scored.
Milito. Killed AC Milan and Abate, punishing a mistake from the Rossoneri's right fullback. The Prince beat Abbiati with a precise low drive which showed both mental freshness and regained confidence.
Pazzini. Now it's clear: for Ranieri a 30% Pazzini is better than a 70% Forlan. The work rate provided by the former Sampdoria forward is seen as necessary by the Inter coach, despite his poor condition. Sometimes embarrassing.
Chivu. He replaced Alvarez on the pitch and Nagatomo as left full-back. Sent to control Boateng, the former Ajax sweeper blocked Rossoneri's Prince five times out of five, the first one after 30 seconds. Professional stuff. One of Chivu's best spells at Inter.
Sneijder. Rusty and shy.
Serie A 2011-12 / Day 18
AC Milan: Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Zambrotta (66' Robinho); Boateng, Van Bommel, Nocerino (80' Seedorf); Emanuelson; Pato (83' El Shaarawy), Ibrahimovic. Coach: Allegri
Inter: Julio Cesar; Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Nagatomo; Zanetti, Thiago Motta, Cambiasso, Alvarez (67' Chivu); Pazzini (90' Forlan), Milito (76' Sneijder). Coach: Ranieri
Goal: Milito 54'
Yellow cards: Boateng, Nesta, Thiago Motta, El Shaarawy