Gritty 10-man Inter won an extremely controversial derby thanks to a Christian Abbiati howler, but Milan were furious at a disallowed goal and penalty appeals. The Nerazzurri held on despite Yuto Nagatomo's foolish red card.
This is always a huge occasion in Serie A, but it already felt like a turning point for both sides who have revamped and reduced their expectations this season. The Rossoneri missed Alexandre Pato, Sulley Muntari, Didac Vila, Djamel Mesbah and Rodney Strasser, but revamped the defence with Daniele Bonera, Mattia De Sciglio and Philippe Mexes, while Bojan Krkic was preferred to Giampaolo Pazzini against his old club. The Nerazzurri were again adopting their three-man defence, but Wesley Sneijder, Cristian Chivu, Dejan Stankovic and MacDonald Mariga were unavailable. Antonio Cassano faced his former teammates with Diego Milito and Philippe Coutinho.
There was a special Milan fan in the San Siro stands too – Mario Balotelli.
The first row came after 150 seconds with Max Allegri debating angrily with the referee. From that contested free kick on Cassano, it was whipped to the back post by Esteban Cambiasso where Christian Abbiati completely mistimed his interception, allowing Walter Samuel to nod in with a diving header.
It should’ve been 2-0 moments later, as Abbiati aimed a weak backpass straight to Milito, but a combination of Mexes sliding in and the striker’s timid header ensured he got away with it. El Principe seemed almost too stunned by the howler to make the most of it.
Riccardo Montolivo’s blockbuster from 25 metres out shaved a coat of paint off the post as the San Siro crowd held its breath. Stephan El Shaarawy couldn’t get enough power on his finish under pressure from Yuto Nagatomo, then the Little Pharaoh tested Samir Handanovic from distance as Milan came out of their shell.
Milan again went close, as Kevin-Prince Boateng drilled inches wide from a Bonera pull-back. Emanuelson intercepted a Juan Jesus defensive pass and immediately set up Boateng, who horribly dragged his kick wide.
There was controversy on 39 minutes when Handanovic came flying out to punch the ball away from Emanuelson’s head and with the goalkeeper still down Montolivo fired into an empty net, but the referee had awarded a foul against the Dutchman.
Andrea Ranocchia desperately intercepted a counter-attack in the box, then Handanovic parried a sudden Bojan snapshot at the near post.
Fredy Guarin replaced Coutinho for the second half, but within three minutes of the restart Nagatomo foolishly received a second yellow card for a handling offence. The Japanese full-back stuck out an arm to block Mattia De Sciglio’s header. Javier Zanetti dropped into the right-back role as Inter went to a back four.
Ignazio Abate replaced Bonera and Cassano made way for Alvaro Pereira amid deafening jeers from the Milan fans. Robinho came on for De Sciglio, moving Emanuelson to left-back, as Inter sat back to protect their lead.
There was a double chance for the Rossoneri, as Handanovic palmed away a Montolivo blockbuster, then Boateng crossed to the back post where Boateng acrobatically volleyed into the ground and over.
Another Montolivo screamer from distance was parried into the path of Bojan, who incredibly slipped on the six-yard line with only Handanovic to beat.
Moments later, Alvaro Pereira drilled wide from distance. Pazzini and Rodrigo Palacio were introduced for El Shaarawy and Milito.
Pazzini sprung the offside trap and came sliding in at the back post, but could only skim Robinho’s cross with his studs.
The ball was cleared to the outside edge of the area and Emanuelson’s angled drive was deflected just wide by Walter Gargano.
Handanovic was under siege and desperately flapped the ball off the head of Pazzini in the six-yard box. Palacio had the chance to seal it for 10-man Inter, but hit a weak effort straight at Abbiati.
Milan’s fury exploded on 81 minutes when they demanded a penalty, but instead Pazzini was booked for dissent, as Robinho was pulled back slightly by Samuel when trying to run on to his pass. The Argentine certainly didn’t go for the ball, but the referee judged it to be using his body to shield it rather than fouling Robinho, who did go down rather easily.
Another Montolivo long-range effort was deflected wide by Samuel with Handanovic rooted to the spot.
Sent off: Nagatomo 48 (I)