Milan fell to a 4-2 defeat in the Derby della Madonnina on Sunday night, as we capitulated in a disastrous second half after an almost perfect opening 45 minutes.
Goals from Ante Rebic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic put us in control of the encounter, but we simply fell apart after the break as Inter scored twice in two minutes to draw level.
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Even after that we had no answer as they completed their comeback, and so all the positive work in the first half was undone as we’re left to assess a bitterly painful defeat.
Brilliant Milan in first half
From Stefano Pioli’s tactical set up to the tempo of our play and sharpness in our movement on and off the ball, it was an almost perfect opening 45 minutes.
We successfully contained Inter who were struggling to get anything going in attack, while conversely, we looked dangerous every time we went forward.
Given the gap between the two teams this season, we couldn’t have asked for a better first half. And while it means little in the bigger picture, there should be a lot to take from that moving forward as we’ll beat a lot of teams if we play to that level and maintain it over an entire game.
Shambolic second half
Sadly, we didn’t maintain it for the entire 90 minutes on Sunday. It was obvious Inter would produce a response and Antonio Conte would make adjustments. Somehow, Milan and Pioli looked as though they weren’t prepared for it.
From the shambolic defending and errors for all four goals to losing our grip on the game to becoming lost in attack, everything that worked in the first half fell apart after the interval.
Pioli’s lack of reaction and adjustments to put things right was a concern in terms of how long it took, while the players have a lot to answer after throwing away this win having been in such a dominant position. The less said about Inter’s fourth goal the better as they practically walked it in.
Bennacer a pillar of this team
A driving force for us in the first half and was perhaps one of two players along with Ibrahimovic who kept his head in the second half, Ismael Bennacer continued to show real quality.
The 22-year-old has firmly established himself as a fundamental figure in our side now, and his maturity and quality in such a big game was a real positive to see.
Ultimately needs the right partner moving forward to make our midfield formidable, but he can be pleased with own individual performance across the entire 90 minutes which is something not many others can say.
Ibrahimovic delivers again
In his first derby back, the Swede delivered with two decisive moments in the first half as he registered an assist and goal to put us in the driving seat.
Yet again, he proved his importance to this side in terms of adding that much-needed quality and experience in the final third, and we will no doubt continue to work around him.
So much dependency on the 38-year-old isn’t a great thing, but it was an absolute joy to see him celebrate another goal in the derby and continue to prove that he has so much more to offer still and there is an obvious knock-on effect for the players around him.
Pioli, players have big questions to answer
This result will sting for some time as to throw away such a commanding position in the derby is unforgivable in many ways and so an immediate reaction is needed.
Everything about the initial set up was spot on. Pioli got his tactical tinkering right as Ibrahimovic was working well up top as the focal point in a 4-4-1-1, and Hakan Calhanoglu looked dangerous floating behind him.
Rebic was a constant problem from the left too while Samu Castillejo added a vital balance. Further, the tempo of our play was ideal in the first half before it all fell away after the break.
However, the way in which we crumbled in the second half will now raise serious question marks about Pioli’s coaching and the character of these players. With Juventus in the Coppa Italia to come on Thursday night, a response is needed right away as there will a huge sense of disappointment and deflation after such a setback.