BEIJING, AC MILAN 2-1 INTER: ONE GOAL NOT ENOUGH

Good first half from the Nerazzurri with Sneijder's opener; overturned in 2nd half by Ibrahimovic and Boateng

BEIJING - A strong first half and and a wonderful goal by Wesley Sneijder weren't enough. AC Milan overturned the result to win the 2011 Italian Super Cup thanks to goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin Prince Boateng. The Nerazzurri were in control for the first 35 minutes. The Rossoneri, who started coming into the game at the end of the first half, turned the game on its head in the space of 9 minutes after the break when, to be fair, they were the better side. What remains is a sense of regret at not having made more of the early dominance, the question marks over whether Gennaro Gattuso should have remained on the pitch after twenty minutes (a nasty foul shortly after being booked), and the protests - in vain - about AC Milan's first goal, with a foul in the build-up (Boateng on Stankovic or Robinho on Chivu). The final scoreline is a repeat of two years ago (2-1 win for Lazio, which preceded the Treble), with the added illusion of a  stoppage-time equaliser by Samuel Eto'o's ruled out for offside. AC Milan 2-1 Inter.

FIRST HALF. Twenty-two seconds. That's how long it took for the first foul to arrive: Boateng on Motta. An early signal that this was a real derby. After 1 minute 40 seconds came the second, Van Bommel clattering into Thiago Motta. Gasperini went with for a 3-5-1-1 formation with Sneijder free to invent behind Eto'o, while Allegri stuck to his trusty 4-3-1-2 and opted for Robinho over Pato in the starting line-up. The first shot came after 5 minutes and it was for Inter and Sneijder; the Dutchman was having an early influence on things as he played between the lines. AC Milan had a great chance a minute later when Ibrahimovic threaded a ball into the box for Robinho to run onto but the Brazilian fired wide. The game was sweeping from one end to the other with both sides looking to make quick breaks after winning possession and the both defensive lines were high up the pitch. The majority of Inter's moves were being created down the left channel, where Obi was proving to be a thorn in the Rossoneri's side.

Gasperini's three-man defence is not the usual static back line and Ranocchia and Chivu were taking it in turns to surge forward and create an extra man in midfield. Inter were closing down and winning balls and in the 13th minute a mistake allowed the Nerazzurri to break: Alvarez headed forward for Eto'o but the Cameroon striker's path was blocked on the edge of the box. AC Milan were very timid in this opening stage, at times seemingly happy to let Inter keep possession. Stankovic, who passed a late fitness test following his injury picked up in training on Thursday, was bossing the game in front of the defence, snapping at heels the second an opponent received the ball. It was the Dragon who had Inter's second chance on 18 minutes following some nice build-up play: his shot down from outside the box was too high.

In the 20th minute the derby sparked back into life with the first key decision of the derby. Gattuso, having been booked moments earlier for a nasty foul on Alvarez, brought down Obi on the edge of box and Rizzoli awarded a free kick but spared Gattuso the red card. Justice would soon be served, though. Sneijder's effort might well have been guided by remote control, such was the inch-perfect precision: Abbiati got the slightest of touches but it made no difference because the curling ball came in high and at pace, and tucked itself just inside the near post. A sweet strike indeed. 1-0 to Inter and a deserved lead after 22 minutes.

The goal, unexpectedly perhaps, seemed to slow down the match and also (partly) Inter, now happier to let AC Milan take the initiative. The Nerazzurri rear guard dropped off a few yards allowing the Rossoneri space up to the edge of the box, making it harder to break quickly. On 35 minutes Alvarez clocked back in again at the end of a move involving good off-the-ball movement and a neat link-up with Sneijder, sending his strike from distance over. Eto'o had his first shot on goal in the 37th minute, his angled effort saved low by Abbiati. AC Milan remembered they were also in the game at this point and a dangerous-looking whipped cross for Boateng ran into Julio Cesar's arms. That was quickly followed by a near-equaliser as the ball came back off the upright after Ibrahimovic had got his head onto the end of Abate's long ball. The Rossoneri ended the half in the ascendancy.

SECOND HALF. Gasperini's side came out for the restart set out, initially, in what looked like a new shape, 4-4-1-1, with captain Zanetti slotting into the left-back role behind Alvarez (who soon made way for Faraoni). The aim was to fill out the wide areas where the main threats from AC Milan had come in the first half. However, Boateng's early chance (48) set the tone for a different second half. Meanwhile the derby was becoming less of a tactical spectacle and more of a battle. AC Milan were having the best of the chances, Seedorf hitting a dangerous drive wide after 52 minutes, but Sneijder quickly replied for the Nerazzurri by powering a decent effort wide from distance. Allegri's team were showing renewed determination and getting the ball up to Ibrahimovic with greater frequency. When the goal came, on the hour mark, it was the Swede's name on the score sheet, although it was highly contested because there was a foul on a Nerazzurri player in the build-up (in fact there were two: Boateng on Stankovic and Robinho on Chivu). Ibrahimovic played Seedorf into space on the right and the Dutchman's accurate cross into the centre was headed home by the ex-Nerazzurri striker. AC Milan 1-1 Inter.

Tempers started to flare as the derby atmosphere increased. Inter looked to have lost their spark of the first half and were also starting to get worked up. AC Milan knew it and they were playing better and producing a kind football seen only in glimpses in the first half. A long ball from Abate for Pato (who had replaced Robinho) was met with a good first touch by the Brazilian and followed up with an early shot that Julio Cesar managed to tip onto his right-hand post. However, Boateng steamed in muscling his way past Chivu to get to the rebound and put his side in front. AC Milan 2-1 Inter after 69 minutes.

That was the cue for Pazzini to make his entrance. With little more than 15 minutes to go and Inter behind. Gasperini's team had used up a lot of their fuel in the first half; now they had to find some reserves from somewhere and not let the psychological blow of going behind take hold, while AC Milan were sitting back and waiting, having to work less. Fresh legs appeared in the shape of Castaignos and he immediately created a chance for Eto'o at the far post (83th minute), but the Cameroonian's volley went wide. The Dutch youngster had replaced Obi and taked up a position on the right, with Faraoni on the left and Sneijder in the hole: Inter were mixing up the men and their formation but their play just wasn't fluid anymore – a real pity. In the final minutes of stoppage time, Eto'o had a possible equaliser ruled out for offside. And thus the Chinese derby went to AC Milan.

AC Milan 2-1 Inter (HT: 0-1)
Scorers: Sneijder 22; Ibrahimovic 60, Boateng 69.

AC Milan: 32 Abbiati; 20 Abate, 13 Nesta, 33 Thiago Silva, 19 Zambrotta; 8 Gattuso (23 Ambrosini, 75), 4 Van Bommel, 10 Seedorf; 27 Boateng (28 Emanuelson, 81); 11 Ibrahimovic, 70 Robinho (7 Pato, 62).
Subs: 1 Amelia, 76 Yepes, 25 Bonera, 99 Cassano.
Coach: Allegri.

Inter: 1 Julio Cesar; 23 Ranocchia, 25 Samuel, 26 Chivu; 4 Zanetti, 8 Thiago Motta, 5 Stankovic (7 Pazzini, 74), 11 Alvarez (37 Faraoni, 63), 20 Obi (30 Castaignos, 81); 10 Sneijder, 9 Eto'o.
Subs: 12 Castellazzi, 44 Bianchetti, 77 Muntari, 27 Pandev.
Coach: Gasperini.

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Bologna); assistants: Copelli and Grilli; fourth official: Mazzoleni.
Booked: Gattuso (19), Sneijder (60), Zambrotta (64), Boateng (77), Ambrosini (85).
Added time: 1+5 minutes.
Corners: 2 for Inter.
Fouls: AC Milan 12; Inter 11.



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