Monday, 16 February 2009

Derby king Maldini outshone by starlet Santon

AC Milan captain Paolo Maldini received an honourable send-off from fans of Inter in his 56th and probably final city derby, but with the champions winning 2-1, 18-year-old Davide Santon was the star of the show.

Paolo Maldini & Davide SantonMaldini will turn 41 in June and is expected to hang up his boots in the summer, meaning Sunday's game was most likely his 56th and final derby appearance.

The defender has played more Milan derbies than any other player, with Giuseppe Bergomi's 44 for Inter making him a distant second to Maldini. Inter fans honoured their long-term adversary by holding up a banner in tribute, which read: "Our rival for 20 years, but always loyal in your life."

Inter supporters also saw young right-back Santon, nicknamed 'Il Bambino' by coach Jose Mourinho, put in a performance worthy of a veteran in his first derby.

Having made his first-team debut in January three weeks after turning 18, Santon impressed again, with Mourinho saying: "Davide is a proper player after tonight. He has now played in six consecutive matches and today he played in the derby."

Some compared Santon to a young Maldini, with the latter having started his Milan career at 16 back in 1985, but the Inter man rejected such parallels.

"It has been over-exaggerated," said Santon. "I send him my compliments. I can only hope to have as brilliant a career as his."

Santon faced Gianluca Zambrotta and David Beckham on his flank, and said: "I was up against some very fast and skilful players. I had to keep my concentration up for the whole game, particularly with Zambrotta in the first half when I found it hard to close down the space."

First-half goals from Adriano and Dejan Stankovic put Inter in control and, though Alexandre Pato pulled one back for Milan, they were unable to force the equaliser. The victory saw Inter open up a nine-point lead over second-placed Juventus, who were held to a 1-1 draw with Sampdoria, with Milan two further points adrift.

"I'm happy with tonight's victory," Santon said. "I want to thank Mourinho for playing me because he has showed great faith in me, building up my confidence. My team-mates also helped me, especially ahead of the game.

"I will celebrate tonight's victory with a big sleep."

With another massive test looming in Inter's UEFA Champions League first knockout round tie against Manchester United, which kicks off next week, Santon will need all the rest he can get.

Source: UEFA

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