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Posted September 4, 2022 08:15 AM
Two goals by Milan forward Rafael Leao helped the defending champions fight back from a goal down and earn a 3-2 win over local rivals Inter on Saturday in their fifth Serie A match of the season.
The victory briefly sent Milan to the top of the table before Napoli leapfrogged them with a 2-1, come-from-behind win at Lazio.
Tensions were running high as Milan defender Theo Hernandez and Inter midfielder Denzel Dumfries were handed yellow cards in the ninth minute after arguing following a collision.
Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozovic scored his first Serie A goal of the season in the 21st minute after an assist by forward Joaquin Correa following a brilliant counterattack orchestrated by forward Lautaro Martinez.
Milan, however, levelled seven minutes later through forward Rafael Leao, who slotted home past Inter keeper Samir Handanovic after collecting a pass from Sandro Tonali.
Stefano Pioli's side kept pressing but spurned a host of chances before the half-time whistle.
Milan forward Olivier Giroud completed the comeback in the 54th minute with a weak but effective strike as it caught Handanovic unprepared.
Leao scored his second goal after swiftly moving past the Inter defence and firing home in the 61st minute to extend the lead.
"Rafa has beautiful moves, plays beautifully, knows he has talent," Pioli told reporters.
Inter did not go down without a fight, however, and scored just seven minutes later through forward Edin Dzeko, whose strike bounced off the post and slipped in.
Milan keeper Mike Maignan delivered a superb performance, keeping out further efforts by Inter who kept pressing until the end but were denied an equaliser.
"We conceded three goals, something you cannot afford in a derby. For the chances we had we should have deserved a draw," Inter manager Simone Inzaghi told reporters.
"We struggled a lot to score two goals this evening, and then we found in front of us a great goalkeeper."
Pioli also said Milan should not have relaxed in the last 25 minutes and should be grateful to Maignan for not conceding another goal.
"Until the 70th minute I liked the team a lot, they played with courage and fought with great determination," he added.
Milan are second in the table on 11 points after five games and travel to Sampdoria next Saturday while Inter, sixth on nine points, host Torino on the same day.
AC Milan vs. Inter Milan result: Rafael Leao sparkles as champions hold on for derby win
Rafael Leao scored twice and set up another as AC Milan claimed victory in the Derby della Madonnina despite a second-half fightback by Inter Milan.
Simone Inzaghi's side took the lead against the run of play after 21 minutes when Marcelo Brozovic burst through the opposition defence to roll a finish past AC Milan goalkeeper Mike Maignan.
However, defending Serie A champions AC Milan responded quickly and restored parity through Leao, who found the far corner of the net after Inter conceded possession cheaply in the middle of the pitch.
AC Milan continued to dominate and took the lead nine minutes into the second half with Olivier Giroud guiding a shot past Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic after good work by Leao down the left.
And Leao scored a classic Milan derby goal to make it 3-1 to the hosts, beating his man with a wonderful piece of skill before sliding the finish into the far corner.
This forced Inzaghi into a series of changes and Edin Dzeko made an immediate impact off the bench, finishing from a Matteo Darmian cross to give Inter hope of a comeback.
But AC Milan held on to leapfrog their rivals and inflict a second defeat of the season on Inter.
Leao the difference-maker
Leao was voted Player of the Season in Serie A last season as AC Milan took the scudetto, and the 23-year-old was in sparkling form in this derby as he made the difference for his team, scoring twice and assisting another. Inter couldn't handle his direct running down the left wing.
In this form, there's no stopping Leao and AC Milan will need the Portuguese international to be sharp as they start their Champions League campaign next week. At 23, there's still time for Leao to improve further. On the basis of this performance, he could become one of the best players in the world.
Inzaghi to face questions
Inter were distinctly second best until Inzaghi made changes to his team in the second half. The biggest change saw Dzeko introduced and the Bosnian striker made an immediate impact, finding the back of the net to give Inter hope of a comeback. From that point on, it was a more open match.
Romelu Lukaku was missing for Inter, and so most expected Dzeko to perform the role he did for Inzaghi last season, but he was overlooked from the start for Joaquin Correa who did little to influence the match. The Inter manager will face questions about his team selection after this.
Maignan came up big
Had it not been for the actions of Maignan in the final 30 minutes of this match, Inter might have walked away with something to show for their late fightback. Indeed, the French goalkeeper made a series of stunning saves as the away team looked for an equaliser.
Of course, AC Milan fans already know what Maignan is capable of after an impressive debut season for the club last term, but it wasn't just that he made a number of solid saves — he was a commanding figure in claiming high crosses into his box. When he needed to, Maignan came up big.
AC Milan vs. Inter Milan updates and highlights from San Siro derby