The sun sets on the first Derby della Madonnina of the season, and Inter Milan have come away with a surprising 1-0 victory. Surprising not because they were favored over AC Milan, but because the nerazzurri went down to ten men with 40+ minutes left to play, and yet Milan still couldn't make them pay.
Inter came out of the gates swinging, pressuring their rivals from the sound of the whistle. It took just four minutes for that pressure to pay off. Esteban Cambiasso sent a lovely free kick curling toward the far post, where Walter Samuel broke free of Mattia De Sciglio. Christian Abbiati could do nothing about his diving header, giving Inter an early lead.
Milan had their best chance of the first half in the 14th minute, in a move straight from the training ground. Urby Emmanuelson sent his free kick back toward a waiting Riccardo Montolivo, who sent in a rocket from distance. A pretty shot, but it went just wide. That would be something of a theme for the rossoneri.
Although Massimiliano Allegri's side did manage to exert a bit of influence on the first half, it all came to naught. Kevin-Prince Boateng kept dragging his shots wide, and when Montolivo did find the net, the goal was called back for Emmanuelson's foul on Samir Handanovic.
The match was turned on its head less than five minutes after the restart. Yuto Nagatomo, who had clattered into Mario Yepes in the first half to earn a yellow, was shown a second for handling the ball. Inter, clinging to a 1-0 lead, would need to spend almost the entire second half down a man.
Prior to the restart, Andrea Stramaccioni sent in Fredy Guarin to replace Philippe Coutinho. To compensate for the loss of Nagatomo, Antonio Cassno came off, with Álvaro Pereira taking his place. Milan went the other direction, of course, bringing in Robinho for defender De Sciglio.
And then Allegrei made an interesting choice. He put Giampaolo Pazzini on the pitch. Understandable -- Pazzini hasn't done much since his hat-trick against Bologna, but being a former Inter player, his presence would likely add some fire to the match. But the decided to remove Stephan El Shaarway, the best rossoneri player. Huh?
The move didn't pay off. In the 75th minute, Robinho set up Pazzini perfectly, but the veteran striker couldn't get on the end of the pass. In the 82nd minute, Pazzini picked up a yellow, his side's third, for a foul on Handanovic.
Despite holding a man advantage for over forty minutes, Milan just couldn't find the right combination to get past the nerazzurri kits. Yes, it's always hard when the opponents park the bus. But the Milan had their chances, and could have managed an equalizer -- they were simply lacking that final touch.