STADIO GIUSEPPE MEAZZA (Milan): Not only will Serie A have a representative in the 2022/23 Champions League final, but Inter and AC Milan will face off for two more heated Derby della Madonnina clashes in front of a packed-out San Siro to decide which of the last two Italian champions will fly the flag in Istanbul. Inter followed their Milanese cousins into Europe’s final four as they dispatched of Benfica with a 5-3 aggregate win (3-3 on the night) 24 hours after the Rossoneri had ended Napoli’s best-ever run in the competition.
When all three of Italy’s quarter-finalists were drawn on the same side of the draw for the last eight, some were already licking their lips at the prospect of an all-Italian semi-final. Most, though, believed that the best chance to see Inter and AC Milan go head to head again would have been in the quarter-finals, such was runaway Serie A leaders Napoli’s form at the time. But Milan took care of business against the side who will surely be their domestic dethroners, and Inter followed suit against the Liga Portugal table toppers.
With a 2-0 first-leg lead brought back to Northern Italy, Inter would have been confident ahead of the game at the Meazza, and any slight doubts they may have had were surely put to the back of their minds when Nicolo Barella impressively died them into a lead inside a quarter of an hour in Milan.
Then, with so much football still to be played on the night, normal circumstances would have seen regular away day attendees searching for flights and accommodation. That won’t be necessary this time, even if a Fredrik Aursnes strike did level things up on the night before half-time.
Inter and AC Milan last met in Europe back in the 2004/05 season. It was a quarter-final meeting then, and you’ve almost definitely seen photos of the occasion. With Milan leading 1-0 in the return leg to boast a 3-0 aggregate cushion, the game had to be abandoned due to crowd trouble. Rossoneri goalkeeper Dida was hit with a flare thrown by Inter supporters, and one of football’s most iconic photographs – on-field rivals Marco Materazzi and Rui Costa coming together to watch the fiery scenes in the Curva Nord unfold – was born.
Unfortunately on Wednesday night, Benfica’s travelling support looked to engage in similar behaviour, and midway through the second half a number of flares were launched down into the first and second blue tiers, after they had earlier taken it upon themselves to remove the material in place to close off three central blocks in their third tier that had been in place for a number of seasons and which was still in place at kick-off.
Milan were awarded a 3-0 second-leg win back then in 2005 and would go on to lose to Liverpool in Istanbul – currently set to host this season’s final as well. This time, with a place in the final on the line, the stakes could hardly be higher. That next chapter in the rivalry was sealed by Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa’s second-half goals before Antonio Silva pulled one back for the Portuguese side.
AC Milan and Inter have grown familiar with doing battle in games with a lot on the line after a decade of disappointment on both sides of the city. Inter’s 2020/21 title win was followed by AC Milan getting their hands on the scudetto in 2021/22, and they’ve had to face off in domestic cup competitions as well.
So far in 2022/23, AC Milan claimed a comeback win over Inter in September, the Nerazzurri won the return fixture in February, and Inzaghi’s side also ran out as comfortable winners when they met in the Supercoppa Italiana.
Knockout Inzaghi appears, Serie A struggles forgotten
Inter came into their quarter-final second leg having lost each of their previous three home Serie A matches – against Juventus, Fiorentina and Monza – and there was some concern that Simone Inzaghi’s side would again struggle against a fancied Benfica. But it was the version of Inter that we’ve seen in knockout competitions under Inzaghi that appeared, and the side that have won the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana under the former Lazio boss.
Given Inzaghi’s impressive record in knockout competitions – he also enjoyed Coppa Italia success at Lazio – and Inter’s home record in the Champions League this season since their loss to Bayern Munich, winning each of their home games since, it was probably always going to be a night on which Inter got the job done, but if this season has taught us anything about the Nerazzurri it’s that they cannot be trusted to do what they should.