Nine-man Inter Milan moved nine points clear of city rivals AC Milan at the top of Serie A thanks to a 2-0 win at the San Siro.
Diego Milito gave the Nerazzurri the lead in the 10th minute, but they were forced to play over two-thirds of the game with 10 men after Wesley Sneijder was sent off.
Milan tried to react but Goran Pandev’s 65th-minute strike secured the points for Jose Mourinho’s side, who lost Lucio to a red card in stoppage time before Ronaldinho saw his penalty saved at the end of a dramatic derby.
During a build-up which had involved more tactics than any game of football, Sneijder and Alessandro Nesta were both set to miss an eagerly-anticipated Milan derby.
While an injury to Nesta was confirmed only on the morning of the match, Sneijder’s recovery from a virus gave Inter the first mini-victory of the night.
The Dutchman, who masterminded a sensational recent recovery against Siena to preserve Mourinho’s home invincibility, almost made an immediate impact with less than two minutes on the clock as he struck a curling volley against the outside of the post from 25 yards.
David Beckham was shown the first yellow card of the game for his second foul in the third minute and that early booking set a strict standard which referee Gianluca Rocchi was obliged to maintain.
But before the referee stamped his authority on the game, Inter were threatening to run away with it.
Milan goalkeeper Dida had to make a desperate save with his foot to deny Sneijder in the eighth minute before two quick-fire attempts from Esteban Cambiasso were both blocked.
The opening goal was inevitable and it came in the 10th minute from Inter’s top goalscorer Milito.
Ignazio Abate played a half-hearted header back to his goalkeeper and Milito pounced on the ball, needing one touch to control it and another to place it into the only part of the goal Dida could not reach.
Milito could not beat Dida at his near post in the 15th minute as Inter maintained a constant pressure which was only stalled when Rocchi took centre stage to send Sneijder off.
Lucio was shown a yellow card for simulation and Sneijder applauded the referee ironically, only he did not see the funny side, sending the Dutchman for an early bath in the 26th minute.
The complexion of the game changed and Milan started to pose a threat with Ronaldinho claiming a handball against Maicon inside the penalty area which Rocchi failed to see.
Andrea Pirlo’s free-kick took a deflection off Lucio to just clear the crossbar as the Rossoneri started to take control of the game.
Ronaldinho volleyed just inches wide early in the second half before a perfect cross from Beckham was met by a determined Marco Borriello, who headed over from just five yards out.
Milan were forced to take risks and this left gaps at the other end, even for only 10 men to exploit.
A quick break involving Milito and Pandev culminated in the latter lifting a shot over Dida and striking the post on the hour mark.
Pandev found the back of the net in the 65th minute to seal the win with a direct free-kick, but there was still 25 minutes to play down.
They defended resolutely before Rocchi sent the second Inter player off, showing Lucio a second yellow card for a handball inside the penalty area.
However, Julio Cesar denied fellow Brazilian Ronaldinho the chance of reopening the game in stoppage time as he pushed his penalty wide of the post as nine-man Inter held on for a win which takes them nine points clear at the top of Serie A and a step closer to the league title.
Data & Statistik
|Diego Militto (10)||Ronaldinho (pen miss 90)|
|Goran Pandev (65)|
|Shots (on Goal)||16(6)||19(4)|
|Time of Possession||33%||67%|
|Stadium: Giuseppe Meazza
Match Time: 19:45 UK
Gianluca Rocchi (Referee)
|Wednesday, January 20, 2010|
|FT||Bologna||2 – 2||Atalanta||Renato Dall’Ara (14,000)|
|FT||Genoa||1 – 1||Bari||Com. Luigi Ferraris (24,863)|
|Saturday, January 23, 2010|
|FT||Catania||3 – 0||Parma||Angelo Massimino (13,000)|
|FT||Juventus||1 – 2||AS Roma||Olimpico Grande Torino (18,750)|
|Sunday, January 24, 2010|
|FT||Bologna||2 – 1||Bari||Stadio Renato Della`Ara (18,000)|
|FT||Genoa||2 – 0||Atalanta||Comunale Luigi Ferraris (25,875)|
|FT||Lazio||1 – 1||Verona||Olimpico (20,000)|
|FT||Livorna||0 – 2||Napoli||Armando Picchi (9,883)|
|FT||Palermo||3 – 0||Fiorentina||Renzo Barbera (12,000)|
|FT||Siena||1 – 1||Cagliari||Artemio Franchi Montepaschi Arena (10,000)|
|FT||Udinese||2 – 3||Sampdoria||Friuli (13,000)|
|FT||Inter Milan||2 – 0||AC Milan||Giuseppe Meazza (80,000)|
|1.||Inter||21||15||4||2||45 – 19||49|
|2.||AC Milan||20||12||4||4||35 – 21||40|
|3.||AS Roma||21||11||5||5||35 – 25||38|
|4.||Napoli||21||10||7||4||30 – 23||37|
|5.||Palermo||21||9||7||5||27 – 21||34|
|6.||Juventus||21||10||3||8||33 – 28||33|
|7.||Cagliari||20||9||4||7||32 – 24||31|
|8.||Genoa||21||9||4||8||35 – 36||31|
|9.||Fiorentina||20||9||3||8||26 – 22||30|
|10.||Sampdoria||21||8||6||7||26 – 30||30|
|11.||Bari||21||7||8||6||25 – 21||29|
|12.||Parma||21||8||5||8||24 – 29||29|
|13.||Chievo||21||8||4||9||22 – 22||28|
|14.||Bologna||21||6||5||10||22 – 29||23|
|15.||Lazio||21||4||9||8||16 – 22||21|
|16.||Livorno||21||6||3||12||13 – 29||21|
|17.||Udinese||20||5||5||10||21 – 26||20|
|18.||Catania||21||4||7||10||21 – 29||19|
|19.||Atalanta||21||4||5||12||20 – 32||17|
|20.||Siena||21||3||4||14||22 – 42||13|