AC Milan 1-0 Inter Milan: And Then Came Ronaldinho’s R10 Day… (Serie A Matchday 5)

Or should I say… R80? Either way ladies & gentlemen, Ronaldinho could not have picked a better day to score the first Serie A goal of his AC Milan career. With the first edition of 2008-09′s “Derby della Madonnina“, the Rossoneri have struck a big blow to Inter and José Mourinho’s big “confidence plan”. No doubt the Portuguese manager will find the right words to re-motivate his team soon enough, but losing the Milan derby is never an easy thing to swallow. Even for ‘Special Ones’…

As for Ronaldinho, well… everyone was expecting his first goal, one he had promised to the Milan faithful before the match. And Ronnie delivered. Launching Kaká on the right wing, and then patiently waiting for the return cross… sailing high over Esteban Cambiasso and heading the ball with fury. Not exactly the kind of goal you’d expect from Mr. “crossbar challenge”, but what a vital goal nonetheless. Followed by the inevitable & traditional R10 Samba jig, and the Brazilian’s contagious smile, grinning below la curva rossonera. Boa vinda Ronaldinho!.

(From Gazzetta dello Sport): Fans of Inter Milan is San Siro’s Curva Nord proudly presented a “Ladies and Gentlemen… this evening Milan is pleased to present to you…” banner before the match. A great idea to celebrate the derby, but only for AC Milan. And that’s how it happened – Milan were pleased to present Ronaldinho’s first goal in Italy from an all-Brazilian move. A fiery derby, with the sending-off of Burdisso and (from the bench) Materazzi. The Rossoneri deserved their success because they worked harder for it – they were more organised, and willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

The clash of two strong forces: the light cavalry of Milan against the heavy one of Inter. Kaká-Ronaldinho-Pato against Mancini-Ibrahimovic-Quaresma. The resourcefulness of Carlo Ancelotti (who confirmed his pre-match starting line-up) against the shrewdness of Jose Mourinho (who at the last minute decided to switch Cordoba with Burdisso).

The first surge of the match came from the Rossoneri, and it was a declaration of war. A nice, rapid passing exchange between Pato and Kaká put the AC Milan nº22 in good position to cross, but Julio Cesar intercepted. Mancini replied 3 minutes later with a low shot past Abbiati’s post. In other words: the game was on!

Milan was all about pace, while Inter tried to suffocate the opposition with tight pressure & marking. The current Serie A champions have already burned the José-playing style deep into their skin: ball possession and a tendency to put the game to sleep, to then make a lethal strike when least expected. The kind you saw in minute 11, a fast exchange and touch to Ibrahimovic on the right kept out by Abbiati’s foot. As for Milan, their propensity to attack put Zambrotta in a good position to shoot in the 14th: his 30m shot was high, but only slightly.

At this point, Inter were givung the impression of being more of a team: authoritative and authoritarian when necessary, especially with the deep runs of Maicon down the right flank. The Brazilian wing-back provided a spark in the sometimes overly complicated play of the Nerazzurri, not shying away from the odd long-distance shot (such as in minute 24, hitting the side-netting).

The first real chance of the game however, came after 26 minutes for Ronaldinho: exploiting a Kaká back-pass Dinho’s rotating volley was perfect, but a huge deflection from Julio Cesar kept the ball from hitting the inside of the post. An indication that Milan had picked up the pace, and that Inter needed to match speeds. Ibrahimovic responded, making Abbiati’s hands sting in the 35th, but it was shot that lacked the full Zlatan-power, the Swedish striker being asphyxiating by his close Rossoneri man-marking.

In minute 36, finally the deliverance. Served by Ronaldinho, Kaká (perhaps in offside position) found a way through on the right and invited his Brazilian buddy to dance. R80 did not need to be asked twice: spreading his wings and rising above Cambiasso, Ronnie slotted his header out of Julio Cesar’s reach and into the top-right corner. Samba-time at the San Siro, and 1-0 Milan.

Inter got angry, put their heads down and charged. The Rossoneri closed up like a clam, shutting down spaces and doubling the marking, not ignoring the opportunity to counterattacking however. The Nerazzurri pushed forward but they had to reckon with a gritty AC Milan side that was workmanlike when necessary, without sparing anyone; Ronaldinho and Pato included. It was the recurring theme of the second half as well, in which Milan played with an attitude in line with the scoreline: cautious defence and assertive counterattack that put Inter’s rearguard under pressure.

With about 30 minutes to go, Mourinho decided to play the all-out-attack card: exit Materazzi & Mancini, enter Julio Cruz & Adriano. Inter switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation that saw Javier Zanetti move back to defence, but the more convincing team still remained AC Milan, making the most of their fine all-Brazilian evening up front. Losing their shape and coordination, instinct took over for the Nerazzurri, such as in minute 72 when Ibrahimovic found some space in the middle but sent his low shot wide. Ancelotti noticed that he needed to add some muscle between the defence and the midfield, so Pato left to make room for Mathieu Flamini.

The Milan box siege (which highlighted the covering & defensive qualities of Massimo Ambrosini), turned into a double-edged sword for the Nerazzurri, because with 15 minutes to go yet another counterattack forced Nicolas Burdisso to upend Kaká in the middle of the field. The center-back had already been booked, which meant Inter were now down to ten men. Nerves started to flare amongst Inter ranks: Materazzi was sent off from the bench for protesting with the fourth official, while Stankovic (on for Vieira) came close to another red card for an ugly challenge on Kaká.

In the final minutes, Andriy Shevchenko (on for Ronaldinho) had the opportunity to show he’s still miles away from his golden-days-self, but nonetheless had a good shot on target that only Julio Cesar’s attentive reflexes kept out of the goal. The final moments saw an Adriano header (well served by Maicon) from point-blank range finish inches wide of the left post, the last chance for Inter in a now lost derby. The referee’s final whistle added itself to San Siro’s samba beats: it was most definitely Ronaldinho’s day.


 AC Milan
[Match Highlights]
F.C. Internazionale Milano
GOALSCORERS: 37’ Ronaldinho (M).
MILAN (4-3-2-1): Abbiati – Zambrotta, Maldini, Kaladze, Jankulovski – Gattuso (88’ Bonera), Seedorf, Ambrosini – Kaká, Ronaldinho (84’ Shevchenko) – Pato (73’ Flamini). (bench: Dida, Cardacio, Antonini, Emerson). Coach: Ancelotti.
INTER (4-3-3): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Burdisso, Materazzi (59’ Cruz), Chivu – Vieira (80’ Stankovic), Cambiasso, J.Zanetti – Mancini (59’ Adriano), Ibrahimovic, Quaresma. (bench: Toldo, Córdoba, Rivas, Balotelli). Coach: Mourinho.


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