Inter edge Milan in derby classic
Inter beat Milan 4-3 at the San Siro in one of the all-time great Serie A derbies to go three points clear at the top on Saturday. Hernan Crespo, Dejan Stankovic, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marco Materazzi got on the scoresheet for Inter, Clarence Seedorf and
Materazzi was sent off for picking up a second yellow card during his celebrations after what was ultimately the winning goal.
The result means Inter stay top, three points ahead of Palermo on 21 points, while Milan stay in 12th and take a step back after successfully overhauling their eight point penalty before the defeat.
Stankovic was undoubtedly the man-of-the-match with three assists to add to his goal in a game where every attack-minded player on the pitch scored an eight out of ten, while the goalkeepers put on impressive displays despite seven goals being conceded.
The match was officially a Milan home game, and the "hosts" almost took the lead in the first minute when Kakha Kaladze somehow fired over with the goal at his mercy after being found unmarked at the far post by an Andrea Pirlo free-kick.
Inter were denied a good shout for a penalty when Patrick Vieira - who was later carried off injured - sent a rising shot against the arm of Massimo Ambrosini on five minutes, with a subsequent free-kick moments later wreaking havoc in the Milan box acting a sign of things to come.
The delirium intensified five minutes later when Stankovic himself picked the ball up after a surging Olivier Dacourt run and let rip with a superb shot that rose and curled, at pace, into the top left with Dida helpless.
Milan tried to take the initiative, the again-excellent Kaka forcing an incredible fingertip save from Julio Cesar in the Inter goal with a shot so fast one could barely see it.
Dida was also earning his coin, acrobatically parrying a Zlatan free-kick deep into first-half injury-time, but Inter held their lead into the break, resulting in what appeared to be a scuffle in the tunnel involving famous hotheads Materazzi and Seedorf.
Milan needed to get the second half underway with a goal, but started in the worst possible fashion when Inter counter-attacked and Zlatan latched onto a Stankovic pass before outrageously flicking the ball past Kaladze and rifling under Dida for 3-0.
Milan were reeling, but within three minutes they pulled one back when Seedorf's long-range shot took a wicked deflection off Javier Zanetti to bring it back to 3-1 - with over forty minutes remaining.
Cesar was working overtime in the Inter goal, saving a Pirlo free-kick in style and was then delighted to see substitute Gilardino's headed goal disallowed for offside after his wonderful save crept into the back of the net.
Pantomime hero-villain Materazzi calmed Inter nerves with a superb header from another Stankovic free-kick to make it a seemingly unassailable 4-1 on 68 minutes. But the former Everton and Perugia man was soon dismissed for raising his shirt to reveal a t-shirt emblazoned with a hand-painted slogan, the celebration deemed to be a bookable offence to add to his earlier yellow card.
Down to ten men, Inter had to sit back and absorb wave after wave of Milan pressure, which soon brought a second goal for the Rossonieri when Gilardino rose above Ivan Cordoba to glance a Cafu cross into the top left of the goal on 70 minutes.
Cesar then made a heart-stopping double save when he parried Cafu's wicked low shot and managed to immediately change direction to somehow palm Kaka's deflected drive through a crowd of players behind for a corner.
Seedorf should have made it 4-3 with five minutes remaining when he sent a free header wide, Cesar saving a free-kick from the same player minutes later.
But Milan and Kaka got their goal, at the start of five minutes of injury time, when the otherwise impeccable Inter goalkeeper flapped at a Cafu centre to allow the Brazilian to lob expertly into the back of the net past the vainly sliding Stankovic.
With seemingly all the time in the world left to grab an equaliser, Milan went into overdrive but Inter resisted, even when Ricardo Oliveira inexplicably failed to score with a free header at the far post after an excellent Gennaro Gattuso cross.
Despite Milan keeper Dida's valiant efforts at the death, Inter held on for a famous victory and the first big win of a season which they must now feel will end in success after years of underachievement.