Joel Obi leveller saves Roberto Mancini blushes in Milan derby
Inter midfielder Joel Obi struck a second-half equaliser in a hard-fought 1-1 draw away to AC Milan to save Roberto Mancini`s blushes on the Italian`s return to Serie A after a six-year absence on Sunday.
Milan: Inter midfielder Joel Obi struck a second-half equaliser in a hard-fought 1-1 draw away to AC Milan to save Roberto Mancini`s blushes on the Italian`s return to Serie A after a six-year absence on Sunday.
Mancini, who led the Serie A giants to seven trophies including three consecutive league titles from 2004 to 2008, was handed a San Siro baptism of fire on his first game back at Inter after replacing Walter Mazzarri a fortnight ago.
On his previous spell at Inter, Mancini had won four, lost five and drawn one in the `Derby della Madonnina` between the city rivals.
After Jeremy Menez struck in the 23rd minute for the hosts, Nigerian Obi`s 61st minute goal secured a deserved share of the points for the Nerazzurri.
Milan moved back up to seventh place and are now 13 points adrift of champions and leaders Juventus, with Inter a point further adrift in ninth.
Mancini lamented the several chances Inter missed through Mauro Icardi, but welcomed not losing to Milan on his comeback match.
"Coming back and starting with the derby wasn`t the easiest thing for me," said Mancini. "But we worked hard together over five days and tonight we did well. We showed a lot of spirit.
"For me it was a positive night."
It was Milan`s fourth draw in a run of five games without a win and coach Pippo Inzaghi was left with a "bitter taste".
"The only feeling I`m left with is one of regret at not being able to gift our fans a deserved win," said the former Milan striker.
"The players feel a little down. They wanted to win what was a spectacular derby. It has left a bitter taste."
As expected, former Manchester City and Galatasaray handler Mancini ditched the misfiring 3-5-2 used by Mazzarri for a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Nemanja Vidic starting on the bench alongside influential midfielder Hernanes.
With the San Siro only several hundred supporters short of the 80,000 mark, Inzaghi`s side looked the more nervous in the first city derby of the season.
Ghanaian Sulley Muntari almost gifted Inter an eighth-minute opener when his mis-hit pass sent Mauro Icardi clear on goal only for Milan goalkeeper Diego Lopez to somehow block the Argentinian`s attempted chip with his trailing leg.
Three minutes later Lopez had to get down smartly to block a low 35-yard drive from Fredy Guarin.
Menez was off target with a free kick from 25 yards that floated over the crossbar, but the Frenchman made amends to send the Rossoneri support into raptures in the 23rd minute.
Stephan El Shaarawy`s one-two with Michael Essien left the Milan forward in space deep on the left and Menez, unmarked, met the forward`s low cross with the inside of his right foot to beat the outstretched Handanovic inside the keeper`s far post.
It was Menez`s fifth goal of the campaign, and second in succession following his strike in a 2-2 draw with Sampdoria a fortnight ago.
The Nerazzurri emerged fired up for the second half but spurned several chances to level.
From a corner, Zdravko Kuzmanovic saw his close-range shot blocked by Lopez and when Mateo Kovacic whipped the rebound across the edge of the box, it bobbled before being cleared to Icardi, who skied his effort into the Inter stand.
Inter`s `ultras` had decked their south end of the stadium out with several banners welcoming Mancini back to the club, and the Italian coach was eventually given reason to smile.
Obi was positioned well when he latched on to a poor clearance from Cristian Zapata, and his low strike from outside the area went between Essien`s legs and crawled past the outstretched Lopez into the far bottom corner.
El Shaarawy spurned a great chance for the winner on 75 minutes after being sent through by Giacomo Bonaventura and chipping over Handanovic only to see his shot clip off the bar.
Minutes later Icardi`s half-volley from the edge of the box spun off Lopez`s crossbar after some great work down the right by Nagatomo allowed Guarin to fire in a cross for the Argentinian.
Milan fans were on their feet in the 90th minute as the Rossoneri pressed for a late winner, but Andrea Poli saw his deflected shot crawl just wide of Handanovic`s upright with the keeper stranded.