As Serie A entered the 36th round of the 2007-08 championship, Roberto Mancini knew victory would wrap up the Inter’s third title in a row, continuing their dominance of Italian football for another season. However, standing in their way were city rivals Milan.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Rossoneri were out for revenge after the Nerazzurri had walked away with all three points in the reverse fixture. In addition to that, they were still chasing down the final Champions League spot.
Milan entered this game in fine form having convincingly seen off Reggina 5-1 and Livorno 4-1 in their previous two rounds, with Filippo Inzaghi finding the net four times over the two games. Meanwhile, Inter had only tasted defeat twice all season, first at the hands of Napoli, then Juventus. And, prior to this game Mancini’s men were on an unbeaten run of five games, conceding just twice. As a result they were the slight favourites for the final Derby della Madonnina of the 2007-08 season.
Ancelotti and Mancini shared a warm embrace on the touchline, but there were no such niceties in the stands as the red hot atmosphere matched the early Milan summer sun covering the famous San Siro pitch. Knowing what was at stake, Milan flew out the traps.
Kaka immediately sprung into life, threading an inch-perfect ball through to the in-form Inzaghi, only to be denied by Julio Cesar in the Inter goal. That set the tone for the afternoon, raising the crowd even more. No way were Milan allowing Inter to turn up to secure another title today.
Ancelotti’s side were playing some scintillating stuff with Kaka again at the heart of everything. The Brazilian playmaker started a move involving Andrea Pirlo and Daniele Bonera, however Cesar was alert as Bonera almost caught the Inter shot-stopper out at his near post.
Everything was coming down Milan’s right side. This time Bonera whipped a ball in that somehow Inzaghi failed to properly connect with, the ball seemingly just grazing his head as another chance went begging. And moments later the poacher was at it again. Once more a dangerous ball came in from the right, but Inzaghi, beating his man, managed to head wide from five yards.
After all Milan’s dominance the teams somehow went in goalless at half-time.
The second half started much the same as the first with Milan causing all sorts of problems. And, just ten minutes after the restart, Milan took the lead. Kaka fired a ball across goal and Inzaghi beat his man, connected properly and headed home, giving the Rossoneri a deserved advantage. Then Moments later man of the match Kaka doubled Milan’s lead.
Some shocking Inter defending left him one-on-one with his fellow countryman Cesar. Kaka, cool as you like, stroked the ball under the goalkeeper, doubling the home side’s lead and promptly halting any title celebrations Inter had planned.
However, the second goal seemed to give Inter somewhat of a wakeup call, as Portuguese midfielder Maniche finally warmed the gloves of Zeljko Kalac. Milan’s giant Australian goalkeeper was called into action again moments later as he rushed off his line to deny Hernan Crespo.
Inter were beginning to pour forward and were very much on top when Julio Cruz silenced the San Siro, giving Inter a glimmer of hope. Cruz caught Kalac out when his 25-yard free-kick easily beat the ‘keeper, who was left flat-footed in the centre of his goal.
But, almost immediately after Cruz’s strike, Kalac made up for his mistake. As a Cristian Chivu free-kick flew over the wall, Kalac dived across to claw it out from the top corner. That save was enough to get Milan over the line and keep their Champions League dream alive. As for Inter, their Scudetto bid went on for another week.
The days of Kaka and Seedorf, Inzaghi and Zanetti, Crespo and Chivu may be long gone, but with Milan’s exciting young guns of Manuel Locatelli and Gianluigi Donnarumma facing off against Stefano Pioli’s first-ever Inter side at a sold out San Siro, this Sunday’s Derby della Madonnina has all the making of another classic.