Claudio Ranieri’s cautious tactics got the better of Massimiliano Allegri’s marauding unit as Inter got the better of their city rivals on Sunday. Diego Milito’s 54th minute effort was enough to get the former champions three points and put them right back in the race for the Scudetto.
The ‘home’ team set out with an attacking 4-3-1-2 shape as they attempted to pin their deep lying opposition back. The full-backs pushed forward, while the midfielders Antonio Nocerino and Kevin-Prince Boateng combined both horizontal and vertical runs to find and create space for themselves and teammates. Alexandre Pato also ran the channels in an attempt to stretch the defence.
The Rossoneri build possession from the back but lacked the craft in the final third to breach the stubborn defence. Lofted passes from deep were played towards the attacking players but these were cut off by superbly positioned opposing players. Urby Emanuelson drifted wide to assist in overloading the flanks and getting crosses into the penalty area but Lucio and Walter Samuel were on top form on the night and dealt with this threat with ease.
Ranieri set out his backline just on top of the 18 yard area and the rest of the team was on clear instructions not to press the ball beyond the halfway line. They showed great discipline, made the opposition play predictably and waited till the right moment to steal the ball and mount a counter-attack.
Their transitional play from defence to attack was superb. They moved the ball with speed, precision and supported the man in possession well. Milito did a great job holding up the ball as well as finding pockets of space to collect the ball and drive the team forward.
Playmaker Ricky Alvarez struggled to impact the game out wide. It was only until he tucked in and played through the centre he was able to make some form of impact. This helped combat the opposition’s midfield superiority and he was now responsible for linking the play allowing il Principe to play higher up the park.
Nine minutes after the resumption Inter’s hard work was rewarded as they scored on the counter attack after a bad give away from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the attacking third. Poor passes and uncharacteristic errors in this area of the field was a recurring factor in Milan’s approach play. Teams who play an open, attacking style and give away possession carelessly are vulnerable to quick attacks in the opposite direction where they may be undermanned defensively.
The “Tinker Man” deserves a lot of credit for starting and sticking with two forwards up top. In comparison to a lone striker who may have been isolated upfront, the forward who received the outlet pass always had a forward passing option who also helped stretch the opposition vertically. Later on he replaced Milito with Sneijder but the Dutch international performed basically the same task.
In the 66th and 80th minute the former Cagliari coach Allegri brought on both Robinho and Seedorf and injected some creativity in the line-up as he encouraged his charges to go all out attack. In the end it was a little too late as the reigning champions looked resigned to the defeat.
Claudio Ranieri seems to have found the winning formula at the blue half of San Siro to mount a title challenge with a not too foreign tactic. This counter attacking tactic was used by the last coach to win the Scudetto for Massimo Morrati’s club, Jose Mourinho. On the red half, this may just be only a blip in the road for Milan’s title charge as they do have the depth of squad and talent to retain the Serie A crown but losing the Derby della Madonnina must leave a bitter taste in their mouths.