With a place in the Champions League final, as well as a city’s bragging rights, at stake Inter Milan’s breakneck start stunned AC Milan in their semifinal first-leg tie as Simone Inzaghi’s team secured a 2-0 victory on Wednesday.
By the time the match had reached the 12th minute, Edin Džeko had volleyed Inter ahead, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan adding a second after bursting into the box and shooting past Mike Maignan.
Inter last won the European Cup in 2010, while AC Milan was Champions League victors in 2007, but any suggestion these two clubs were more associated with yesteryear was quickly forgotten given the electric atmosphere inside the San Siro.
But in the end, it was two of Inter’s veterans who proved to be the difference makers on Wednesday.
With less than 10 minutes on the clock, the experienced Džeko opened the scoring with a cultured volley into the top corner of Maignan’s net.
It was a finish which showed the 37-year-old’s wealth of know-how as he cleverly guided a volley home from a corner whilst wrestling with AC Milan skipper Davide Calabria.
Inter’s fans didn’t have to wait long before their side doubled the lead when Mkhitaryan finished off another flowing move.
So often the creator of goals, the 34-year-old Armenian kept his cool to strike the ball past Maignan in the AC Milan net.
It could have, and probably should have, got a lot uglier for Stefano Pioli’s side as Inter passed up on several chances to put this semifinal beyond AC Milan.
Hakan Çalhanoğlu’s shot hit the post, while Inter thought they had a penalty in the first half when captain Lautaro Martínez was felled in the box, but referee Jesus Gil Manzano overturned the decision with the help of VAR after concluding the contact had been too minimal.
Džeko then had a glorious one-on-one opportunity following the half-time interval only to be denied by the Milan ‘keeper.
It was hard for the home side to perform as badly in the second half as they did in the opening 45 minutes and Pioli’s side did occasionally threaten the Inter goal, notably when Sandro Tonali’s raking shot hit the post.
“It feels very good, especially because it’s a derby and on paper we played away so it’s a great result for us,” Džeko told BT Sport.
“Nothing is yet finished because in the Champions League only great teams arrive in the semifinal, so we have to be careful, we have to be concentrated like today.
“We have a good result but nothing yet is finished so we will definitely be even more concentrated for the second game.”
AC Milan defender Fikayo Tomori attributed his team’s slow start to some nervousness.
“First half I think there was a bit of anxiety within the team and in a game like this you can’t give them a millimeter, a centimeter. But we can’t dwell on it, we have to move on to the next game,” Tomori told BT Sport.
The second leg of the semifinal between the Milan clubs takes place on May 16 with a place in the Champions League final against either Real Madrid or Manchester City awaiting the victor on June 10.