Monday, 24 December 2007

History favours Inter

If history repeats itself Inter will continue their majestic stride towards the Serie A title and be crowned champions in May.

Victory in Sunday's Milan derby over newly-crowned Club World Cup winners AC Milan ensured the Nerazzurri the unofficial title of winter champions with two games to spare.

After 17 matches they have a seven-point lead and cannot be caught by the time the league season reaches its halfway stage in mid-January.

And in the 14 previous occasions that Inter have secured the winter champions title, they have also gone on to lift the Scudetto.

What makes this winter crown all the more special is that it was earned after a come-from-behind victory against their bitter cross-city rivals.

After Andrea Pirlo curled home a sumptuous free-kick to give the European and world champions the lead, Inter crafted a well-worked equaliser through Julio Cruz, despite at the time playing with a man dissadvantage, and then a horror mistake from Milan goalkeeper Dida allowed Esteban Cambiasso to snatch the three points for the nominal hosts at the San Siro.

"In the second half we suffered a little at the end," admitted Inter coach Roberto Mancini after his side came under late pressure. "But we managed the game well and we deserved to win.

"They did little in the first half to deserve the lead but well done to Pirlo."

Inter's victory came despite a less than impressive performance from their star of the season so far, Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has not scored from open play in Serie A since October 20.

But Mancini jumped to the defence of the mercurial talent.

"Ibra? It could be that he was not at 100 percent but when he has the ball he is always dangerous," added the coach, who also praised match-winner and workhorse midfielder Cambiasso.

"Cambiasso is in physically good shape and he is playing brilliantly at the moment. In these first five months of the championship, we can say well done to everyone."

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti thought his side had deserved a draw, and but for Dida's mistake and two glaring late missess from Massimo Ambrosini and Emerson, they would have gone home with a share of the spoils.

"A draw would have been fairer. The match was completely balanced from the first half to the second," said Ancelotti.

"Inter were more physical, they have the quality to do that. But I still think the match was decided on certain incidents."

Ancelotti complained that his side should have had a penalty and he claimed there was a foul on Pirlo in the build-up to Inter's winner.

But the defeat has left Milan down in 12th place and with a mammoth 25 point gap to the leaders, although they do have three games in hand.

Ancelotti realises that their title hopes have now faded.

"For sure in the championship we have a lot of hard work to do. Now we have finished the year and we have to try to find some solutions."

One of those solutions will be to get Ronaldo back to full fitness as the former world player of the year has played just one match this season.

His absence has left Milan with only two fit strikers in veteran Filippo Inzaghi and Alberto Gilardino.

But another solution will be the introduction of Brazilian wonderkid Pato, who will finally be allowed to make his debut after registration problems meant the 18-year-old had to wait until the January transfer window to sign for Milan.

"From January I hope to have everyone back and have four strikers. Right now our attacking potential, where we have only two players, is inferior to Inter's," said Ancelotti who cannot wait to introduce Pato to Serie A.

"Pato will not arrive just for me or for Milan, but for the whole of Italian football."

Source: AFP

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