AC Milan 3 v 2 Inter Milan (21.02.2004)
An absolute belter of a Milan derby weekend got off to a tricky start with our flight having difficulty landing in Milan due to thick fog. Two initial attempts to land were aborted at the last minute as the jet engines roared back into action signalling that the pilot was having some navigational difficulties.
We weren’t sure what was happening at the time as the pilot’s cabin announcements came after the roar of the engines as the plane accelerated back up again! I think the gist of the problem was zero visibility and a problem with the aircrafts radar making it difficult for the pilot to gauge the runway! After circling Milan for the 2nd time we approached for our 3rd attempt and fortunately this time the plane was able to land safely.
Aside from the thick fog there was a good covering of snow on the ground and freezing conditions and our first impressions were the derby could be in danger of postponement.
This was unfortunately out of our control and the game wasn’t until the next day anyhow. We decided to head down to the San Siro anyway to test the water on the tout front. As previously experienced at the San Siro there were a number of people dotted about looking to sell on tickets for the game. We managed to pick up 3 seats together again – hoping that this time they actually existed! With tickets in hand – we felt a weight had been lifted off of our shoulders – so cue an afternoon and evening of liquid refreshment and where else to start off than ‘The English Football Pub’ in central Milan not far from the Duomo and Vittorio Emmanuel II shopping area. Brits abroad eh?
Match day and the game was scheduled for an 20.30 kickoff. Conditions were still ice cold and there was a covering of snow / slush still about and we were now praying the San Siro soil heating had been cranked up! We headed to the San Siro early to enjoy all the pre game build up – and of course purchased our AC Milan scarves ready for the big game. After drinking outside the stadium for about 90 minutes we noticed there was a small ‘AC Milan’ bar that was packed with fans who didn’t want to drink on the cold streets outside like there English counterparts. We ended up popping in for a few and got chatting to an Italian guy that was wearing a rather dated AC Milan ‘Mark Hateley’ scarf! Of all the star players to have graced AC Milan the last player you would expect to be someone’s Milan idol was Mark Hateley (who had played for the club back in the mid 80’s). Anyway we were made to feel welcome in the bar as fellow Mark Hateley compatriots!
As a general rule the ‘away’ team in the derby fixture gets the middle tier of the three behind the goal. We left the bar to take our seats about 30 minutes before kickoff and had assumed we were in the AC Milan section. As we walked towards the entrance gate we suddenly realised we were in fact in the Inter ‘away section’. I had nailed my colours to the ‘Rossineri’ mast, but was boarding the Nerrazuri boat! Schoolboy error.
After a slight detour and a bit of scarf placement re-adjustment, we then returned back to our entrance – with scarves now firmly tied around our stomachs and concealed by our coats. Of all the places you didn’t want to get spotted in ‘red and black’ it was probably the Inter ultras section on derby day!!
Clearly sticking out like sore thumbs – we tried to make our way to our seats. As often is the case in foreign football – the ultras sections are self policing – and stewards are conspicuous by their absence. We stood where our seats were allocated, but within seconds we were ushered away by one of the ultras. We weren’t welcome here. It’s more of a case of stand where you can.
As with the derby i had experienced a few seasons before the atmosphere was electric in the build up to kick off. As the teams entered the pitch the ultras tifo’s were unravelled – Kev and Simon were right under the Inter one, whilst I’d moved out to the side to capture some photos of the AC Milan tifo at the other end. A giant red devil was unveiled with the words ‘Simbola Di Passione’ running across the top tier.
Simbola di Passione!…the AC Milan tifo…
This was to be a Milan derby classic. Inter raced into a 2 nil half time lead thanks to goals from Stankovic (15′) and Zanetti (40′). To be honest that score was totally unexpected on our part – but we were more than grateful to be in the Inter end caught up in the madness of celebrating alongside the ultras! All manner of flares, smoke and bangers were being let off throughout that first half – it was quite an experience!
During the relative tranquility of the half time interval, a man with a bag of mini bottles of sambuca passed through the ultra’s section (can you imagine that happening in the Premier League!), and needing a winter warmer we decided to indulge in what was clearly an Italian football tradition. It warmed my throat anyway!
As the teams re-emerged after half time – the AC Milan ultras let off hundreds of flares at their end providing an amazing ‘kodak’ moment. It was an incredible display to witness, and it was even better to be able to view it from the ‘outside’ this time after being ‘in it’ two seasons before!! For me it’s moments like this that make watching football abroad such a unique experience, something that I doubt will ever be replicated by watching football on UK shores. Even if the game itself was sub-standard (which this one certainly wasn’t) you always have the added bonus of the ultras offsetting any on field disaapointments by their performances around it! If the two happen to come together, then for me there isnt an experience that can come anywhere close!
The old cliché of ‘a game of two halves’ could be no better applied than in association with this game. What was to follow in the 2nd half was nothing short of truly stunning.
The Milan comeback was started in the 57th minute with a goal from Jon Dahl Tomasson (how did he become a Milan player by the way!). 2-1 Inter. 60 seconds later and it was 2-2. A burst from midfield from Kaka and well placed long range strike past Toldo had turned the game on its head in the space of 2 minutes. The San Siro was literally rocking.
The ascendancy was now well with Milan and a remarkable comeback was sealed in the 86′ minute when Seedorf cut inside from the left flank to unleash a right footed belter past Toldo into the far corner from 25 yards. The San Siro absolutely erupted into a cauldron of unbelievable noise and celebration and you could feel the stands shaking! You had to feel for the Inter fans – and it was difficult being in that end at that moment – as the neutral in me was dying to celebrate or at least applaud the quality of what we had just witnessed!
As the end of the game approached the disgruntled Inter fans started throwing stuff down on the AC Milan fans in the lower tier below; seemingly forgetting that there were AC Milan fans in the tier above them, who then started throwing stuff on the Inter fans below!
Every now and then football has that unique ability to leave you in a state of absolute awe and delight. Many games fade away into the forgotten, but occassionally you get one that will live with you forever. This game was one of those and will probably always feature in my top 5 list of all time ‘best games’ – it had everything: drama, goals (and quality goals at that), a comeback, and an immense atmosphere created by both sets of fans that was the icing on the cake!