The derby defeat was the Rossoneri’s second loss of the season, but coach Sinisa Mihajlovic remains optimistic as the game offered an ounce of hope for Milan… is this optimism justified?
Milan lost 1-0 to Inter at San Siro on Sunday’s Derby della Madonnina. According to Mihajlovic, the Rossoneri can still take some positives from the game after the poor displays showed against Fiorentina and Empoli. So what are those positives from Milan’s defeat?
First and foremost, Mihajlovic’s reshaped midfield raised hopes after the horrific performances against both Fiorentina and Empoli at the start of the season. “It feels like we lost,” Sinisa said after the game against Empoli. Mihajlovic reshuffled the diamond. Bertolacci, Nigel de Jong, Nocerino and Suso, who all started in the last game before the international break, were sidelined against Inter. Juraj Kucka was in replacing the injured Bertolacci as right interior midfielder, while Riccardo Montolivo came in for De Jong in front of the back four with Giacomo Bonaventura on his left and Keisuke Honda at the top of the diamond just behind forwards Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano.
The midfield overhaul left the manager with mixed feelings. The Montolivo experiment worked as the captain provided some balance in the middle of the park, allowing more freedom to both Kucka and Bonaventura. Montolivo produced a decent performance with some quality, suggesting he could take this role on permanent basis. On the other hand, Honda was simply outplayed by Inter’s pivot Felipe Melo. The Japanese was unable to be the link between the midfield and Adriano & Bacca. Mihajlovic should think again about who should start as the no. 10 but he got some nice answers from the rest of this bunch.
Another good point from that bad night was the performance of the much-maligned Mario Balotelli. The 25-year-old forward made an impact and although Mihajlovic went the wrong way by replacing Bacca with Balotelli (the Serb should have inserted him in the place of Honda), the former Liverpool striker provided the needed quality up front, especially with his set-pieces. He also hit the post and gave Inter some headaches, as head coach Mancini admitted after the game.
Balotelli ignored whistles and provocations coming both from on the pitch (a hard tackle made by Melo) and off field, showing a bit of that maturity he lacked during his career. Should he continue to play as he did against Inter and continue to contribute, Mihajlovic could get something out of him this season. The idea to line up Balotelli alongside Bacca and Luiz Adriano is no more a dream.
Perhaps Mihajlovic got another good answer from last night’s derby: playing alongside Alessio Romagnoli, Cristian Zapata produced a nice effort, showing composure and concentration. The Colombian was comfortable in the middle of Milan’s defence, easily containing Mauro Icardi throughout the game. His display was mistakes free. Zapata looked better than Rodrigo Ely, showing he’s worthy of a starting place over the Brazilian, should he replicate this kind of performance.
So, at the end, as painful as it was – this defeat wasn’t a total mess. Milan have to move on and build something out from the positives they showed.
Article by Michele Tossani