AC Milan and Inter somehow played out to a goalless draw on Wednesday afternoon, despite both teams seemingly doing enough throughout the 90 minutes to earn themselves all three points.
Disallowed goals for both teams – including the rightful use of VAR which ended in a correct decision – and two absolute sitters from Mauro Icardi. A game that was destined for goals was eventually defied by destiny itself, and the hunt for Champions League qualification continues for both sides.
The Milan derby has always been an enthralling affair, but this encounter arrived with added significance in the hunt for European qualification – with Gianluigi Donnarumma labelling the tie a “Champions League play-off” ahead of kick off.
A win for Inter would take them 11 points clear of their rivals and all but end Milan’s hopes of making next season’s tournament. Whereas a win for AC would see the side fall only five points adrift of Inter in Serie A, and with the latter side still having to face Juventus and Lazio this term, all would still be to play for.
As expected ahead of kick off, San Siro saw the derby start in a lively manner, with both sides doing their best in possession to keep the tempo high – a packed out stadium willing on the players as the opening 15 minutes saw the game ebbing and flowing; neither team able to create any dominance over their city rival.
Milan came frightfully close to opening the scoring in the 21st minute, and it certainly would’ve been had it not been for an incredible save from Inter’s Samir Handanovic. An in-swinging free-kick from Hakan Calhanoglu saw the ball whip into the danger zone, Leonardo Bonucci just about getting his eyebrows onto the delivery and directing it into the bottom right corner.
Cat like reflexes from the Slovenian saw Handanovic get a big left hand to the effort, in what was pretty much his first touch of the game.
From there on in the first half both sides seemed to grow into the game – both managing to cut out slight half chances at either end of the pitch, but no clear cut opportunities managed to get carved out.
Then VAR got involved.
Mauro Icardi – one of Europe’s most lethal finishers – was handed only a sniff on goal when rolled in one on one with Donnarumma before rolling it through the legs of the Milan keeper. The Argentine had hardly been involved in the game until he found the back of the net on 37 minutes.
It was his 25th goal of the season, until the video assistant referee overturned the referee’s decision for offside. Literally millimetres ahead of Leonardo Bonucci, but VAR got the decision right and in a swift manner (whisper it quietly or all the anti-VAR Twitter gurus will come hunting), and brought play back. 0-0.
Though Inter wouldn’t have been happy with the decision, it certainly spurred them on for the rest of the half, beginning to really dominate Gennaro Gattuso’s side.
However, it accumulated to nothing, and both sides ended the half goalless.
Complete shock ten minutes into the second half took hold of San Siro, when Icardi missed an open goal from five yards out. Rafinha found Antonio Candreva in plenty of space from a wide angle in the box. With Donnarumma closing in, the Italian squared it to Inter’s number nine for an easy finish.
Icardi, going for what seemed a chop finish, completely botched his effort and punted it wide. While the ball bobbled on its way to him, and was slightly behind the striker, he should’ve definitely scored and would’ve been kicking himself with the miss.
It felt as though a higher power wasn’t allowing the Argentinian to score.
Inter continued to dominate as the half drew on; the quality within their attack creating dangerous moments for Milan – mainly through the likes of Rafinha and Ivan Perisic. Thankfully for il Rossoneri, Donnarumma was equal to anything thrown at him.
And then another disallowed goal came into the frame, though VAR wasn’t required; this time for Milan.
A flicked through ball from Franck Kessie played Patrick Cutrone in behind the Inter defence; the Italian reacting acrobatically with a bicycle kick to flick the ball into the bottom right corner. However, the 20-year-old wasn’t even allowed the chance to celebrate, the referee instantly ruling him offside.
68′ Cutrone finds the back of the net with a bicycle kick but it won’t stand / Cutro segna in rovesciata ma è in fuorigioco#MilanInter 0-0
— AC Milan (@acmilan) April 4, 2018
Icardi’s game went from bad to worse at the very death of the game. Brilliant build up play, and a dagger of a cross from Joao Cancelo found the 25-year-old stretched out at the back post – poking the ball wide from three yards out. The striker could’ve had a hat-trick on the night, and will no doubt be looking to forget that match as quickly as possible.
Icardi’s miss proved to essentially be the last kick of the game, and the match petered out to a 0-0 draw. Both sides will have felt they could’ve been better on the night, but Inter will be kicking themselves with that result.