Joao Mario, Mauro Icardi impress but Inter collapse late in the Milan derby
The first Chinese Derby della Madonnina was a scorcher -- for the neutral, anyway.
Inter blew a two-goal lead to their bitter rivals in a catastrophic second half. Milan had started better, but the recovering Roberto Gagliardini broke the deadlock by finding Antonio Candreva with a peach of a long ball on 36 minutes.
The game looked to be over when Mauro Icardi played a sumptuous give-and-go with Ivan Perisic to bury a second on the stroke of half-time.
Though the Rossoneri pushed more in the second half, their good intentions looked to have come to nought, at least until Alessio Romagnoli volleyed home on 83 minutes. An excessively defensive Inter proceeded to mess up an easy counter through Jonathan Biabiany.
Fifty seconds later, the team imploded on a corner, allowing Cristian Zapata to equalise on 97 minutes, mirroring Perisic's late spoiler in the reverse fixture.
The goals were beautifully taken. The defence showed patience (up to a point), typified in a moment where Gary Medel let Gerard Deulofeu twist and turn repeatedly before calmly dispossessing him. Inter's tackling was on point today, and Joao Mario was a heck of an addition.
This feels like a defeat. This team collapses easily, and makes too many mental errors. The ball retention is dreadful, nullifying all the good tackling. Why were Inter letting Gerard Deulofeu in so often if they were packing the redoubt? The full-backs can only do one thing each (Danilo D'Ambrosio helps Candreva, Yuto Nagatomo defends), at least until push comes to shove, when they're completely useless.
Manager rating out of 10
5 -- The good: Stefano Pioli was right to play to defend in the first half, and Milan's penetrating runs were proof of this. The bad: he threw the game away by playing so passively from the 53rd minute onwards. Inter's transition was error-prone, and subbing Perisic over Candreva made little sense. The other substitutions all backfired, terribly. Mental weakness only explains things in part: if the players are making errors, it's because they don't feel comfortable. That's down to tactics and alignment, too.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Samir Handanovic, 6 -- Gifted Milan the equaliser, but had been a rock beforehand, throwing himself onto two curlers and coming off his line brilliantly to deny Gerard Deulofeu.
DF Danilo D'Ambrosio, 5 -- Had a very strong first half on the front foot, but doesn't have the all-round skills to play the whole wing. Deulofeu was a nightmare on the left. Booted a clearance when Handanovic was down on the ground.
DF Gary Medel, 6 -- Was admittedly beaten for pace by Deulofeu on numerous occasions down the wing, but handled things well in the middle. Let his opponents try to dribble him instead of tackling rashly, and anticipated intelligently, too.
DF Miranda, 5 -- The stats are good, managing five interceptions and three tackles. The details, not so much. Twice got caught clearing sluggishly, and was beaten by miles by Romagnoli for Milan's first, and lost Zapata for the second.
DF Yuto Nagatomo, 6 -- Actually kept Suso quiet for most of the game, and survived an assassination attempt from Manuel Locatelli. Let the Spaniard beat him for Milan's first.
MF Roberto Gagliardini, 6 -- Inter are a different beast with him on the pitch. He's a beautiful regista, and two glaring errors (losing Romagnoli and giving it away early on) can't negate what he brings this team. The deep balls were all him, and they carved Milan up in the first half.
MF Geoffrey Kondogbia, 7 -- Four tackles and a dominant defensive performance. All he has to do now is learn to pass. Wish he was faster.
MF Antonio Candreva, 6 -- Scored his second derby goal of the season and combined well with D'Ambrosio in the first half. His long-rangers are still the stuff of Fredy Guarin legend. Useless in the second half.
MF Joao Mario, 7 -- Arguably earned the job tonight: unlike Banega, he touched it more than most and was always an outlet. Constantly set up dangerous chances, and ran alongside Icardi on deep balls. Feels like he's the man to take the midfield forwards -- literally and metaphorically.
MF Ivan Perisic, 6 -- Supported Nagatomo more than Nagatomo supported him, and that says a lot. Had the running of Davide Calabria, helped set up the second, but also blew a great chance. Hooked too early, but wasn't on fire.
FW Mauro Icardi, 7 -- Would you like a back-heel with that? Remarkably crisp in build-up. The second goal was hardly a tap-in, owing everything to his corralling a difficult ball. Faded towards the end.
FW Eder, 4 -- You know when fans say that they could play better than a disappointing professional? This is what that would look like. Threw away two counters like a drunk Sunday League player on his third wind and fifth can of Heineken.
DF Jeison Murillo, 5 -- Was thrown on to bolster the defence. It didn't quite go as planned.
MF Jonathan Biabiany, 4 -- Fired his one effort over when running to the flag was a far, far better idea.
Edoardo Dalmonte covers Inter Milan for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @EdoDalmonte.