For AC Milan in Saturday’s fabled Derby della Madonnina, Gennaro Gattuso’s nightmare came true. If not for Inter’s new-look, new-effect attack, poor Captain Rino would be carrying all responsibility for the unbalanced result (AC Milan 0:4 Inter).
Inter earned three (and perhaps all four) of their strikes, yet more could not have gone wrong in one half of play for the feisty AC Milan defensive midfielder as he returns from long-term injury to snatch back his position from the interloping Galaxy star, a certain D Beckham.
You can understand Gattuso’s frustration as it progressed through its stages to the final red mist which early took the rossoneri down to ten men. Inter went up one-nil around the half hour on a pristine Barça-esque piece of triangulation capped by a Thiago Motta finish (he’s a fresh, suitable & welcome transfer from Genoa).
Gattuso, having required an ankle-strapping on the sideline beneath the the half-hour, would soon find himself the only one in red & black stripes to chase Inter’s Samuel Eto’o the 50 yards into the box to haul the Cameroonian international down with an ever-so-slight tug on the neck as Eto’o cleverly crossed in front to shield the ball at full pace. This, upon a pin-point 50-yard ball from Inter’s Brazilian right back, Douglas Maicon, who alertly air-mailed the rossoneri’s quixotic press.
Diego Milito (another welcome transfer to Inter from Genoa) would place the ensuing spot kick firmly center of the roof of the net. Storari had nothing to do.
The opera commences at minute-37, AC Milan in the hole two-nil. Rino calls it quits, hobbling off and asking for a substitution. [I'm touched to see Zanetti with sincere concern ask Gattuso "what's the matter?" to which he replies "mi caviglia (my ankle)."] But Gattuso must wait. Leonardo is slow to effectuate the swap. Seedorf laconically pulls up his socks & warms up on the sideline in his yellow pinney. Rino finds himself back in the fray and makes an overweening (if only just late) tackle on Inter’s new trequartista, Wesley Sneijder, at the center circle.
You can see where Gattuso’s head is: he holds the Captains armband in his left hand as he makes the lunge. ‘Get me OFF the f@#%ing pitch. Now!’ He is — for all practical purposes — already soaping up his goatee in the San Siro showers.
Meltdown. Second yellow, a Red Card. In fact, Rino should have gotten the straight Red as last man when he bundled Eto’o; but Mr Rizzoli’s mercy and his capacity for nuance on the big day are not to be underestimated. Within minutes, Gattuso has enabled the referee to make up for his initial mistake — which was merely one of achromatopsia.
Gattuso’s expletives as he leaves the pitch are directed at Leonardo.
Dejan Stankovic would cap the scoring late with a lovely inside-out swerving dagger into the upper side netting from distance, leaving Storari to flap. We’ve seen this kind of thing from Wesley Sneider, himself, in his Ajax days; and you can see how Inter’s new signings have both direct and indirect influence on Inter’s new multifaceted attack which, before, could look singularly monochrome as spearheaded by the efficient Swede who’s moped off to Barça. You could say Inter have added with canny insight and this would not be the half of it.
An embarrassed Mr Berlusconi left Mr Galliani at half time to stew in both of their juices [I eyed that choice vacant seat at the San Siro with some relish from my distant position in Messi-chusetts]. This left Leonardo holding his chin & looking pensive while a lacrimose Berlusconi was surely throwing San Pellegrino fizziwaters against the bullet-proof retainer in the back seat of his Bentley.
Huntelaar, the new Dutch signing, came on and achieved little with little support. Ronaldinho touched the ball seldom. Seedorf gave the ball away cheaply. I was hoping Super-Pippo would come on and get a tumbling out-of-control glancing deflection in the 5-yard box, but I knew the truth: AC Milan is moribund. Gattuso’s bad day issued from his passion and over-compensation for his side’s pedestrian effort on the biggest day of the season in Milan. With Kaka’s Iberian migration, the rossoneri need to refresh closer to the extent Moratti & Mourinho have done together across town.
If Inter’s performance is any indication — with Wesley Sneijder having just barely got off his aeroplane — they will pull further away in Serie A and make their presence felt in the Champions League over the next few seasons.