Monday, December 24, 2007


In a battle between the world's best and Italy's best it was the domestic champions Inter who beat AC Milan 2-1 at the San Siro in Sunday's first Milan derby of the season.

It was a match that had been eagerly anticipated since a week ago when Milan added the Club World Cup title to the Champions League crown they claimed back in May when beating Liverpool 2-1 in the final.

Ironically, though, while the world champions began with seven Italian internationals, Inter - living up to their full name Internazionale - fielded a starting 11 including nine South Americans and not a single Italian.

Whatever the make-up of their side, Inter have been unbeatable this season and go into the three-week festive break with a seven-point lead over the chasing pack - Milan, who have three games in hand, are 25 points off the pace down in 12th.

Hosts Inter had the first chance of the match after barely five minutes when Brazilian right-back Maicon crossed to the back post where Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic volleyed over the bar.

Inter were pushing the pace of the game but Milan looked dangerous on the counter-attack and striker Filippo Inzaghi earned a free-kick on the edge of the box on 18 minutes after Colombian centre-back Ivan Cordoba dragged him down.

Andrea Pirlo stepped up to sweep home a delicious curler into the top corner.

That sparked some life into Inter and they almost equalised two minutes later but Chilean midfielder Luis Jimenez grazed the bar with a shot from a tight angle after Argentine forward Julio Cruz's right-wing cross had not been dealt with by a panicking defence.

Inter did find a way back into the game 10 minutes before the break in sumptuous fashion as Ibrahimovic and Esteban Cambiasso worked the ball to Cruz, who held off Clarence Seedorf's challenge before firing low past Brazilian goalkeeper Dida.

And that was despite Inter briefly playing with 10 men due to an injury to Argentine centre-back Walter Samuel.

Milan were possibly feeling the effects of last week's trip to Japan and made a string of early second half changes, with Italy striker Alberto Gilardino and Brazilian midfield pair Emerson and Serginho introduced into the fray.

Inter certainly looked the stronger side after the break and a deflected shot from Argentine midfielder Cambiasso sent Dida the wrong way on 64 minutes to give the hosts the lead.

Late on Milan did start to exert some pressure but Brazilian goalkeeper Julio Cesar got down well to turn away World Player of the Year Kaka's fierce drive.

Emerson and Massimo Ambrosini then both missed gilt edged chances to equalise as Inter became jittery in the final moments.

Roma stayed second after a Francesco Totti double gave them a 2-0 win over Sampdoria on Saturday.

Juventus are third, eight points off Inter, after goals from Hassa Salihamidzic and French forward David Trezeguet earned them a 2-0 success over Siena.

Fiorentina returned to winning ways in spectacular fashion as they thumped rock-bottom Cagliari 5-1 having not won in their previous five games.

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