Milan Derby Adds to Serie A Intrigue: 5 Talking Points
The Derby della Madonnina was quite the riot, as we look at the five talking points from football this week.
#1 RIOTOUS DERBY DELLA MADONNINA
Well the Derby della Madonnina was quite the riot...
From Zlatan Ibrahimovic assisting one and scoring another to put Milan 2-0 up at the break, to Marcelo Brozovic’s volley, Mattias Vecino’s side footer, Stefan de Vrij’s absolutely absurd header, Christian Eriksen hitting the angle from 40 yards, Zlatan hitting the upright from a yard, and Romelu Lukaku making things certain... it was a Milan Derby worthy of the fanfare!
Antonio Conte, Inter Manager:
It was a derby and we knew we had to face an AC Milan side that were very different from the team we met in the first half of the season, a much stronger AC Milan, who should be much higher in the table.
Stefano Pioli, Milan Manager:
It's hard to take a defeat like this, but we have to analyse it, we have to acknowledge our qualities, because we dominated a stronger opponent fair and square.
Indeed it was a poor return after such a stunning start from Stefano Pioli’s men. Those 45 second-half minutes practically erased all the positives since his arrival in October; that had seen the Rossoneri lose just one of their previous 11 league games.
Whereas for Inter, there can’t be a better way to go top of the table, than by beating your biggest rivals.
#2 JUVE’S INEXPLICABLE LOSS
A huge reason for Inter hitting the top of Serie A, was Juventus’ truly inexplicable loss to the newly promoted Hellas Verona.
Having held Lazio to a 0-0 draw four days earlier, it wasn’t like it was the first time Verona had made a contender for the Scudetto look terrible. But Juve keeper Wojciech Szczęsny was right to label the defeat “embarrassing”.
It certainly wasn’t how Cristiano Ronaldo would’ve liked to celebrate turning 35 last week, even if he did score for the tenth Serie A match in a row, moving him one short of the league record held by Fabio Quagliarella last season, and Gabriel Batistuta in 1994-95.
Instead, CR7 had to bow down to another 35 year old in Giampaolo Pazzini, as his penalty scored Verona the famous victory.
#3 BLADES CUT THROUGH THE PACK
When it comes to the inexplicable, there’s a whole host of Premier League teams leading the way.
Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Arsenal could all miss out on next season’s Champions League, after Sheffield United cut through the pack to rise to fifth following their 2-1 win over Bournemouth.
Chris Wilder, Sheffield Utd Manager:
You know, I'm not comfortable manager. We're not a comfortable team, we want more. We've enjoyed our first year back in the Premier League. We've played a part in it. And there's some big games coming up. And we want days like we've had today.
Wilder's team, who were in League One just three seasons ago, have taken advantage of the so called “big clubs” inordinate amount of missteps this season. And if they are to qualify for a major European competition for the first time in their 130-year history, it would be no less than they deserve.
#4 BUNDESLIGA STALEMATE
The 0-0 stalemate between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig at the Allianz Arena didn’t do much for the prospect of a new Bundesliga champion. But at least the Bavarians didn’t increase their lead on top of the table, and fans who dislike RB - which is a very sizable proportion of Germany’s football community - didn't have to suffer through Leipzig taking the lead.
Julian Nagelsmann, RB Leipzig Manager:
It is neither won for Bayern nor is it lost for us, or lost for Dortmund or Gladbach or Schalke.
It certainly is tight at the top. And if we were to point fingers at any team for not adding more question marks to this season's title winners, it should really be Borussia Dortmund - who failed to get amongst the top two after dropping all three points to Bayer Leverkusen.
Bayer not only scored in the 81st and 82nd minute to beat BVB 4-3, but became the first team to not concede a goal to Erling Haaland in a yellow and black shirt… It was very impressive.
#5 MESSI GETS BACK TO BUSINESS
Last week Lionel Messi got himself involved in a spat with Barcelona’s director of football Eric Abidal on social media, resulting in rumours he could leave the club at the end of the season. But against Real Betis, he went back to doing what he does best, and let his football do the talking.
He didn’t score, but he did bag a hat-trick of assists, putting the ball on a plate for Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets and Clement Lenglet for Barca to win 3-2.
It was probably the best statement Messi could make. The Argentine may want to distance himself from the suggestion he runs Barcelona off the pitch, but on it, there’s no greater authority.