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Champions League Match Report & Player Ratings | Early goal blitz gifts Inter a 2-0 win over rivals AC Milan in Champions League semi-final first leg

Goals from veteran pair Edin Džeko and Henrik Mkhitaryan made the difference on the night in a house divided at the San Siro as Inter Milan jumped to a first-leg win against their bitter rivals

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A historic night in northern Italy brought into focus one of the biggest rivalries in football when heated rivals AC Milan and Inter Milan locked horns at the icon San Siro in the Champions League semi-finals, with Inter coming out on top in a hotly-contested 2-0 affair in Lombardy.

It was the first time in nearly three decades that Inter had beaten Milan on three occasions across three different competitions in one season, with Simone Inzaghi’s outfit proving the vastly superior side on a night where Stefano Pioli’s can hardly stand up to any measure of scrutiny after a painfully disappointing outing on all fronts.

The blue half of Milan got off to a fantastic start inside the first eight minutes on a night that divided the San Siro when Bosnian veteran Edin Džeko slammed home a volley from close range after Hakan Çalhanoğlu’s inswinging corner found the big center-forward at the back post.

Džeko did well in a physical mismatch against Davide Calabria, making good on the club’s start as the away side that saw them press high and rely on the same systematic tendencies that have made them so successful against their bitter rivals of late.

Inter’s dream start continued just three minutes later when they added their second on the night through Henrik Mkhitaryan after the Arminian’s late run into the zone was picked out by Federico Dimarco before he slotted past Mike Maignan in an opening phase of play that few could have imagined.

I Nerazzurri nearly made it three to the good after sixteen minutes when Çalhanoğlu struck the post with a fantastic effort from range as the former AC Milan midfielder so nearly had the last laugh against a fanbase he remains at odds with since his departure.

Stefano Pioli was forced into an early change when Algerian star Ismaël Bennacer limped off in the 18th minute after picking up a knock, with Junior Messias coming on as his replacement, calling into question how the club would respond after having to shift Brahim Díaz centrally.

It took Milan thirty minutes to find their first effort at Inter’s goal, with a clever back heal from Calabria at the near post but his effort could only hit the side netting. Inter nearly thought they earned a penalty after Lautaro Martínez went down in the box but VAR replays showed that the Argentine dove under minimal contact, gifting Milan a chance to stave off disaster.

The second stanza began with Inter continuing in their attempts to find the killer blow across the two-legged semi-final clash and nearly found their third goal in the 52nd minute just minutes after Milan crafted a big chance of their own through Messias, who could only bend his effort well wide of Onana’s far post.

Changes from both managers reflected the reality of proceedings that transpired on the San Siro pitch, with Milan rotating options into play that were meant to keep the scoreline at 2-0 to hopefully give Pioli’s side even the smallest chance of battling back next week in the second leg.

Simone Inzaghi’s troops took their foot off the gas as the match reached its final stages, and though Inter certainly had chances to triple their lead on the scoresheet, a two-goal advantage heading into next week’s second leg is certainly a justified advantage on the balance of play.

Milan star Rafael Leão is expected to be fit for service by then, however, as the Portuguese international was sorely missed on a night where the club lacked creativity or direct drive on the ball. His talent back in the team could be vital. Until then Inter can rest easy after putting one foot in the finals set to take place in Istanbul.

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Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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