One city. Two teams. One victor. The day I mark on my calendar months in advance. Tense anticipation crept up on me a few hours before the starting whistle. I tried desperately to find anything to console my nerves. Thinking of Inter's first seasonal outing versus newly promoted Bari surely helped.
The Nerazzuri, a team brimming with world class stars that failed to outclass a squad that has been bouncing back and forth between Italy's top two leagues for the past several seasons.
Then there was Milan, who the previous week played an impressive game against mid-table ranked Siena. It seemed obvious, we were on form and Inter were still gelling as a unit. I brainwashed myself to believe we were the favourites. And for the first 20 minutes of the game, it sure seemed that way... But then...
A flurry of precise one touch passes outside the Milan penalty box finally found a wide open Thiago Motta, who curled a shot right past Storari. 1-0. For the first twenty minutes, Milan were creating a majority of the chances, with Pato producing a few scintillating runs across the entire length of the pitch. But Milan's usually technically sound play turned into a train wreck right after the first goal.
Just as Gattuso was about to be taken off because of an injury, he caused a penalty with a clumsy tackle inside the box. 2-0. Then a few moments later proceeded to lunge at Sneijder and received a red card in the process. Seedorf, who was waiting on the touchline to be subbed in, went back to take a seat and watch the wheels come off Milan's wagon.
A Maicon goal put an end to a nightmare half. We were losing 3-0, with one man down. Look, I'm sure Leonardo is a nice bloke, and he was a stellar player in his prime, but a few of his tactics as coach had me shaking my head in confusion.
First observation: there was not NEARLY enough pressing in the second half. Considering the circumstances, I was expecting to see a team with engines running on all cylinders. And to make matters worse, our only target man Marco Borriello was subbed off in place of Seedorf. (Read my last column, Seedorf-Ronaldinho-Pato is the attack Berlusconi has wanted all along) So for the first twenty minutes or so of the second half, Pato kept floating out wide, where he trotted around helplessly, as there was not one Milan player waiting in the box for a cross.
As the television camera's kept zooming up on Leonardo's expressionless face, he finally showed signs of life by putting in the newly acquired Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. I would've been fine with this substitution, except he was replacing our most talented and creative player: Ronaldinho, who gave us the best chance of a well placed through ball or a goal from a set piece. Why not take off Jankulovski, who has not been effective since... Well, he's never been effective. Or even Pirlo, the once world class "regista" whose play has been in constant decline as he succumbs to aging. At this point, I doubt Pirlo could hit the water from a dock.
The scars are still fresh from the defeat, which is a reason I'm attempting to play coach. A final Inter goal from about 30 yards out summed up the evening: dreadful, a bit unlucky, and downright embarrassing. A defeat of this magnitude is enough to bruise the pride of any Rossoneri faithful, but since we are only one point down from our rivals in the league table, I realize my comments are a bit premature and have been induced from my rather emotional current state.
- Sneijder will unfortunately prove to be a great acquisition for Inter. His creativity in linking up the midfield with the attack is what they were sorely missing, and his long range shooting is simply phenomenal. Inter could have easily been up 5-0 if it wasn't for the heroics of Storari in putting a glove to a Sneijder missile in the first half.
- Thiago Silva is very, very good. Other than his excellent timing in defence, he has great passing abilities and even scampered up the whole pitch on a few occasions to help the static attack.
- This game did little to settle the debate of who should be Milan's starting striker. Borriello, apart from winning a few headers and mauling defenders with his strength, was invisible and still cannot find the net with Milan. Huntelaar came on as a second half substitution but did little to calm my nerves. His one-on-one shot against the keeper was soft, and right into the belly of Julio Cesar. He seemed confused on the pitch and did not show much "grinta", an Italian word for aggressive determination.
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