AC Milan 0-2 Inter Milan (Dzeko 8′, Mkhitaryan 11′)
It was the blue half of Milan who were eyeing flights to Turkey next month as Internazionale took a firm grip of this Champions League semi-final derby.
Early goals from Premier League rejects Edin Dzeko and Henrikh Mkhitaryan rewarded a storming start from Simone Inzaghi’s Nerazzurri, almost putting the tie out of sight within the first 15 minutes.
The mayhem in Milan continued on the half hour as Lautaro Martinez turned ex-Chelsea man Fikayo Tomori before falling softly under a challenge from Simon Kjaer. Referee Jesus Gil Manzano pointed to the spot, before being ushered to the touchline screens by the VAR to reassess his decision. The spot-kick was overturned and AC Milan remained only two goals behind, keeping their stuttering hopes alive.
A raucous San Siro welcomed the teams for this neighbourly dispute as Serie A enjoyed an unexpected night at the European top table and prepared to provide the first Italian finalist in six seasons.
Milan had beaten Inter in the 2004-05 competition en route to an Istanbul final and it appeared Stefano Pioli’s side were content to leave proceedings to fate as they hoped for another Turkey shoot next month.
Inter, winners in 2010, tore into their ‘hosts’ from the start and deservedly took the lead after just eight minutes. Hakan Calhanoglou, the Turkish midfielder with four years at Milan, sent in a corner that Dzeko, 37, volleyed past a statuesque Mike Maignan, easily holding off Davide Calabria’s meek challenge.
Dzeko would have just finished daydreaming of a reunion with his former Manchester City colleagues in next month’s final when Inter struck again, through an equally stunning effort from Mkhitaryan.
Federico Dimarco sent in a ball from the left, Martinez dummied and the former Manchester United and Arsenal man, 34, was afforded the freedom of the Piazza del Duomo to advance and sweep past Maignan.
The Rossoneri, badly missing the mecurial Portuguese forward Rafael Leao, had no answers, reduced to half-hearted appeals for a penalty when Olivier Giroud was out-wrestled by Francesco Acerbi before Ismaël Bennacer was forced off through injury.
Calhanoglou crashed against a post, Maignan denied Mkhitaryan before the spot-kick reversal saved Milan from further punishment.
They emerged stronger after the break, substitute Junior Messias curling wide but Alessandro Bastoni was then allowed to run at the home penalty area before feeding Dzeko. The Bosnian was denied by Maignan, rediscovering some of his recent fine form for club and country.
Divock Origi, scorer in the 2019 final for Liverpool against Tottenham Hotspur, entered the fray for Milan in place of Alexis Saelemaekers on the hour. The Belgian combined with Giroud to feed Sandro Tonali, who hit a post from the edge of the box.
Milan teased and probed but lacked imagination and could not break through the blue wall.
It is Inter who will return to San Siro in five days with hopes of winning their own Eurovision gong contest, making their minds up.