Once upon a time, the hype of the Milan Derbies was huge. But with the rise of the English Premier League and La Liga and the lack of stars in the Italian Serie A that hype took a blow. Then came Cristiano Ronaldo to the Serie A and forced a chunk of the global audience to follow the Italian Serie A again. With the viewers taking enough interest in the Serie A like those of the 90s and 90s; teams like Inter, AC Milan, Napoli, Atalanta, AS Roma, Lazio etc. decided to pull their socks up.

Gradually the Italian Serie A is not just about one team from Turin, but the others have started to catch the supremacy of Juventus.

Since football returned to Europe after the lockdown; one team is displaying the quality of football, which earned them huge fans and followers in the late 80s – AC Milan, one of the best teams in Europe back in the late 80s, 90s, and 2000s; have been brilliant on the pitch. They play to win matches rather than just trying to save the game and it is their intent to win at any cost have scripted an unbeaten record of 20 games that includes breaking the jinx in the Milan Derby – the last time, Rossoneri beat rivals Inter was back in January 2016.

Under Antonio Conte, Inter are not a pushover anymore. They are one of the contenders to dethrone Juventus and keeping in mind the previous records against the Rossoneri – obviously, Inter took the pitch as the favourites.

Stefano Pioli was forced to make some alterations to his usual starting XI as Rafael Leao started in place of Ante Rebic, with Alessio Romagnoli coming in for Matteo Gabbia and Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning upfront.

Who else but Zlatan!

In the 13th minute, Milan took the lead from the penalty spot.

Ibrahimovic was put through on goal and was chopped to the floor by Kolarov inside the area, and the Swede dusted himself off to score from the spot albeit at the second attempt as Handanovic saved the initial effort.

Less than five minutes later it was 2-0.

Rafael Leao beat D’Ambrosio down the left with some excellent trickery before firing an inch-perfect ball across the face of goal where Ibrahimovic was waiting and had the easy task of poking home at the far post.

Donnarumma was called into action in the 18th minute as Lukaku managed to get some separation inside the area and fire on goal, but it was easily gobbled up.

However, just before the half-hour mark Lukaku would reduce the deficit.

Inter pose a threat, but Milan weather the storm

In the second half, Inter began to pressurize the Milan backline, and Kjaer was required to head the ball off the line after Lautaro Martinez’s header back across goal that had Donnarumma beaten. Gigio then saved well from Barella after some neat build-up play involving Lukaku.

Inter had the final two chances of the opening half; the first a shot from Martinez outside the area that Donnarumma saved easily, the second a header from Lukaku that was glanced wide after he had been left unmarked from a corner.

Hakimi continued to cause problems down Milan’s left side and he should have arguably shot when he burst past Theo into the box, but he ended up pulling the ball back to nobody after Lukaku left it.

Rafael Leao found space and fired a shot narrowly wide of the near left post with a shot from outside the area, but Inter then continued to dominate, coming close through a header from Hakimi which he should have done better with.

Milan continued to afford Conte’s men plenty of space to run into, and it could have easily cost a goal as Barella’s shot from inside the area was desperately headed wide by Kjaer.

Pioli decides to increase compactness

Pioli made a double substitution to respond to the tide of pressure, bringing on Rade Krunic and Samu Castillejo for Leao and Saelemaekers.

Martinez arguably could have done better when he was found at the back post by a cross from Perisic, however, the Argentine couldn’t get over the ball and headed wide.

Krunic had a fantastic chance to stamp his impact on the game shortly after coming on as Castillejo found him with a through ball in the 72nd minute, but the Bosnia international fired wide when he simply had to hit the target.

Inter thought they had a chance to level from the spot as Lukaku went down under pressure from Donnarumma, but the Milan No.99 was adamant he didn’t touch him and it was overturned anyway as the Belgian was in an offside position.

The Rossoneri were happy to sit deep and try and catch the Nerazzurri on the break, and Castillejo squandered a couple of situations where there was numerical superiority, while Kjaer also could have done better with a free header from a free-kick.

The home side continued to press and Perisic should have tested Donnarumma when he was found by an excellent cross, with memories of his late equalizer in 2015 all of the sudden flooding back.

Lukaku had two final chances to equalize as he was found by a ball in behind, though he toe-poked his effort wide of the left post, and then in the dying moments of the game, he back-heeled straight at Donnarumma from inside the six-yard box in what was the last action of the game.

Forza Milan

AC Milan are at the top of the table with four straight league wins to start the season for the first time since they were coached by Fabio Capello in 1995. That puts them five points clear of their city rivals already, with Conte unable to secure a victory that would have seen him become the first-ever Inter boss to win his first three Milan derbies.

The performance is very encouraging, but still, a long way to go!