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Monday, March 12, 2007

Serie A, Inter Milan 2-1 AC Milan

Inter fight back to win Milan derby
Inter Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored the winner as Inter Milan bounced back from their disappointing exit from Europe in midweek with a narrow triumph over city rivals AC Milan on Sunday in the derby match.

Ibrahimovic struck with 15 minutes remaining to give the Serie A leaders a deserved victory in a thrilling encounter at a sold-out Giuseppe Meazza stadium. Substitute Julio Cruz had levelled the score shortly after the re-start to cancel out Ronaldo's first-half strike against his former club.

Inter Milan showed plenty of character after their elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Valencia, to keep their unbeaten run in Serie A. Coach Roberto Mancini's decision to replace Crespo with Cruz proved a wise move by the coach, as the latter struck seconds after entering the game.

Crespo was first to test Dida with his central strike proving an easy catch for the AC Milan goalkeeper. The Rossoneri then pressed forward and Andrea Pirlo sent a warning to Inter with his curled free-kick going just wide off the near post. Mancini was forced to make his first substitution shortly after, with Maxwell replacing an injured Fabio Grosso. Midway through the first half, Pirlo's right-footed effort forced Julio Cesar to palm over the crossbar for a corner.

Marek Jankulovski had a lucky escape after his clearance inside his own area proved an assist for Crespo, who fired wide off the far post. On the half hour mark, Inter should have been awarded a penalty after Daniele Bonera brought down Ibrahimovic inside the area but the referee surprisingly booked the Nerazzurri striker for diving and played on.

Inter increased the tempo and looked more threatening from then on. The hosts twice had the opportunity to break the deadlock. Crespo's close-range header from Nicolas Burdisso's cross went just wide off the far post.

In the 38th minute, a fantastic play by Luis Figo saw the Portuguese get past two players before firing towards the far post but Crespo was unable to get the all-important touch. Just when Inter were playing at their best Milan struck.

Ronaldo got past Maxwell before firing a left-footed strike towards the far post with goalkeeper Julio Cesar unable to reach it.

Mancini made a half-time substitution with Walter Samuel replacing Olivier Dacourt. Inter picked up where they left off and should have equalised shorlty after the break, with Ibrahimovic's close-range strike forcing Dida to dive low to clear. Milan were quite happy to sit on their lead and wait to hit Inter in the counter attack.

They should have done just that on 53 minutes, with Gennaro Gattuso missing a great chance to double his team's lead, with his angled strike narrowly missing the far post. It proved costly for the Rossoneri, as Inter equalised seconds later.

A cross from the left by Ibrahimovic found Cruz inside the box whose first touch was sufficient to beat Dida. Cruz almost struck his second shortly after, with a classy back-heel touch going inches wide over the crossbar.

AC Milan attempted to react, with Pirlo's central free-kick proved an easy catch for Julio Cesar, but it was Inter who looked more deadly. A defensive mistake to fire past Dida and give his team a lead. The goal proved a hammer blow for the Rossoneri.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti's decision to bring in Alberto Gilardino and Yoann Gourcuff failed to spark the Rossoneri as they conceded their first defeat of the year at the hands of their arch-rivals.

INTER Milan (2): 12 Julio César, 23 M Materazzi, 11 F Grosso (6 Maxwell), 4 J Zanetti, 2 I Cordoba, 16 N Burdisso, 5 D Stankovic, 7 L Figo, 15 O Dacourt (25 W Samuel), 8 Z Ibrahimovic and 18 H Crespo (9 J Cruz)

Subs: 21 S Solari, 6 Maxwell, 91 M Gonzalez, 20 A Recoba and 1 F Toldo

AC MILAN (1): 1 N Dida, 3 P Maldini, 25 D Bonera, 44 M Oddo (2 M Cafu), 18 M Jankulovski, 10 C Seedorf, 23 M Ambrosini, 22 R Kakà, 8 I Gattuso, 21 A Pirlo and 99 L Ronaldo

Subs: 20 Y Gourcuff, 11 A Gilardino, 17 D Simic, 7 R Oliveira, 32 C Brocchi, 16 Z Kalac

Serie A Inter Milan 2-1 AC Milan highlights and goals: