Watching Napoli shockingly drop a pair of points against a nine-man Verona earlier in the day, AC Milan would have been hoping to capitalize on their opening as the derby di Milano got underway on Sunday.
However, while the Rossoneri might have managed to improve on their recent record against their bitter local rivals, the Serie A title contenders could only muster a 1-1 draw at the San Siro.
On a night that saw a real tale of two halves, we have taken a look at the key talking points as AC and Inter had to settle for a point in the 229th installment of the Milan derby.
Frustration for Inter
While Inter might have initially struggled to find their feet when new boss Simone Inzaghi arrived at the San Siro over the summer, the Nerazzurri opened Sunday’s showpiece event enjoying a real purple patch.
Breezing past Champions League dark horses Sheriff Tiraspol earlier in the week thanks to a 3-1 win, the former Lazio boss would have been fancying his chances of making it four straight wins across all formats.
Getting Sunday’s derby off to a perfect start, Hakan Çalhanoğlu came back to haunt his former club after just 11 minutes as the former AC star nicked the ball off of Franck Kessié before going down in the box.
With the Turkish forward receiving a chorus of boos after stepping over the divide and joining Inzaghi’s side during the summer, Çalhanoğlu converted his penalty and sent the Inter section into overdrive.
Doing all the early pressing in a first-half that they largely dominated, the Nerazzurri were then given a golden chance to retake the lead following Stefan de Vrij’s own goal just six minutes after Çalhanoğlu’s opener.
Pouncing on more poor defending from inside their own 18-yard box, full-back Matteo Darmian was brought down by a reckless challenge from Fodé Ballo-Touré midway through the first-half.
However, making the decision to allow attacking talisman Lautaro Martínez the chance to end his five-match drought, the Argentina ace was denied from the spot as Ciprian Tătăruşanu produced a sublime save diving down low to his right.
Watching Nicolò Barella have his sweeping effort cleared off the line, along with both Edin Dzeko and Martínez missing a pair of golden first-half chances, Inzaghi and Inter could be ruing a missed opportunity.
Late charge not enough for AC
Managing to shock many across Italy last season as they landed a silver medal finish ahead of the likes of Juventus and Atalanta, there were questions over the summer about just how sustainable AC Milan’s title ambitions were.
However, while the Serie A giants might have struggled with their form on the European stage this season, the Rossoneri have continued to gain a host of plaudits as they once again find themselves battling it out at the top of the table.
Opening Sunday’s contest with both them and Napoli holding a commanding seven-point buffer over Inter and the chasing pack, Head Coach Stefano Pioli was vocal about his side’s lacklustre start to the 229th Milan derby.
Heading into the half-time break lucky to not be chasing the game, AC and Pioli deserve praise for some smart adjustments throughout the second 45.
Making the decision to replace Ballo-Touré with Pierre Kalulu, the Serie A title challengers almost nullified Inter’s attacking presence as they dominated the second-half, especially in the later stages.
With Zlatan Ibrahimović’s free-kick forcing Samir Handanović into a smart save, there was almost time for AC to snatch what would have been a stunning derby day victory on Sunday night.
With second-half sub Alexis Saelemaekers rattling the post with his 30-yard effort in the final moments, Kessié was handed a golden chance to make up for his involvement in Inter’s opener.
However, while the ball might have fallen kindly to the Manchester United target, the 24-year-old could only put his rebounded effort the wrong side of the post.
What’s coming up for both?
While AC might have been disappointed to have only entered November’s international break with a single point on Sunday night, Pioli made it clear that he will be heading into the fortnight break focused on his side’s positives.
Knowing that Napoli failed to extend their buffer earlier in the day, the Rossoneri will be next seen on domestic duties when they face off against another one of their oldest rivals.
Before a crucial Champions League meeting against Atletico Madrid at the end of the month, AC will mark their return from the international break when they make the trip to the Stadio Artemio Franchi and meet Fiorentina.
On the flip side, still likely to be left feeling flat from their toothless second-half display on Sunday, Inter will be desperate to try and make up some ground when they’re next seen in what already looks set to be another eye-catching affair.
Knowing they’re still in a real uphill battle if they’re to defend their Serie A crown this season, the defending champions will welcome a high-flying Napoli to the San Siro on November 21st.
AC Milan: Tatarusanu, Calabria, Kjaer, Tomori, Ballo-Touré, Tonali, Kessié, Díaz, Krunic, Leão, Ibrahimovic
Subs: Kalulu, Bennacer, Saelemaekers, Bakayoko, Rebic
Inter Milan: Handanovic, Skriniar, De Vrij, Bastoni, Darmian, Perisic, Barella, Brozovic, Calhanoglu, Dzeko, Martínez
Subs: Dimarco, Dumfries, Vidal, Correa, Sanchez
Goals: AC Milan: De Vrij OG 17′ – Inter Milan: Calhanoglu 11′ pen
Yellow Cards: Ballo-Touré
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Daniele Doveri
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