Milan v Internazionale - as it happened

Excited? Silvio Berlusconi at a Bunga Bunga party ain't got nothing on me. Tonight's Milan derby is undoubtedly the biggest we've seen in years – first v second with just two points separating the teams and only seven more games left to play after this evening. To put that into context, the last time these two occupied the top two spots in Serie A going into a derby was 1993.

Inter were the ones playing catch-up then, too, seven points behind with – by chance - the exact same number of games remaining. With only two points available for a win back then, nothing less than a victory would have been enough to keep the title race alive. The game finished 1-1, and Milan cruised home as champions.

A draw today could make things very interesting indeed at the top of Serie A – given that third-placed Napoli are only three points behind Milan and even fourth-placed Udinese only six points off top spot going into this weekend – but recent history makes that look unlikely. There has not been a draw in the past 14 editions of this fixture.

On form Inter would have to be the favourites, having picked up 37 points from a possible 45 and closed the gap at the top of Serie A down by 11 points since Leonardo took charge during the winter break. If there wasn't enough spice to this encounter already, this is Leonardo's first derby since joining Inter – turning his back, in the eyes of the fans at least, on more than a decade of service to the Rossoneri.

Team news You probably know by now that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is suspended for this game, and in his absence Massimiliano Allegri has plumped for Robinho and Alexandre Pato up front, with Kevin-Prince Boateng tucked in behind at the top of his midfield diamond. Rather more surprisingly, Gianluca Zambrotta makes his first start this year. Inter are without Lucio plus long-term absentee Walter Samuel at centre-half, but both Andrea Ranocchia and Christian Chivu have shaken off injuries to start in their stead. The selection of Gianluca Pazzini, Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto'o and Goran Pandev all together suggests we might be about to see the return of the 4-2-fantasia (a variation on 4-2-4/4-2-3-1) Leonardo made famous at Milan.

Milan 1 Abbiati; 20 Abate, 13 Nesta, 33 Thiago Silva, 19 Zambrotta; 8 Gattuso, 4 Van Bommel, 10 Seedorf; 27 Boateng; 70 Robinho, 7 Pato. Subs 12 Amelia, 15 Papastathopoulos, 16 Flamini, 18 Emanuelson, 76 Yepes, 77 Antonini, 99 Cassano.
Manager Massimiliano Allegri

Inter 1 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 15 Ranocchia, 26 Chivu, 4 Zanetti; 8 Thiago Motta, 19 Cambiasso; 27 Pandev, 10 Sneijder, 9 Eto'o; 10 Pazzini. Subs 12 Castellazzi, 2 Cordoba, 5 Stankovic, 14 Kharja, 22 Milito, 23 Materazzi, 55 Nagatomo.
Manager Leonardo

Referee Nicola Rizzoli

Upsetting Silvio Allegri will doubtless have noted that Berlusconi said he hoped to see Antonio Cassano getting the key goal or assist today, something that will remain rather unlikely as long as he stays on the bench. Nobody will be too surprised that Allegri plumped for the two Brazilians up front - Cassano has not looked at all sharp of late - but if his team do fail to win it wouldn't be any surprise to hear about it getting brought up in the manager's next appraisal.

Trouble brewing? "Odds on a red before the hour?" asks Daniel Pearson on Twitter. "Gattuso and Van bommel... Can't wait" Certainly wouldn't bet against one, Daniel. The first meeting this year was a very bad-tempered, with Abate sent off and several others very lucky not to go as well (not least Ibrahimovic, for a hefty kung fu kick into Marco Materazzi's midriff).

A full house at San Siro As ever the fans' choreography will come under close scrutiny and Milan have certainly set the bar high with a mock-up of the Last Supper casting Leonardo as Judas.

GOAL! Milan 1-0 Inter (Pato 1 min) Would you Adam and Eve it? Alexandre Pato exchanges a one-two with Gattuso on the edge of the box, before threading a through-ball into the box for Robinho. Julio Cesar gets to the ball at almost the exact same moment as the Milan forward, but the ball ricochets away from their challenge and straight to the feet of Pato, who strokes it into the unguarded net.

3 mins Milan, unsurprisingly, are buoyant after that goal and come streaming forwards again only for the flag to go up for offside just when it appears that Pato may have snuck in behind again.

4 mins Milan would normally be a decent enough bet to defend a lead - they have the tightest defence in Serie A (22 goals conceded), but then Inter are the division's joint-top scorers (level with Udinese on 56).

5 mins Leonardo is getting rather shouty down on the sidelines. So much for all that allegria he was banging on about before kick-off.

7 mins Inter win the first corner of the game, but it's headed away with a satisfying thud by Van Bommel. Leonardo's side still look a little shell-shocked to be honest, but then you may recall that they did in a recent game in Munich too. When you've got players like Samuel Eto'o in the team it doesn't take long to turn things around.

9 mins Big penalty shout from the 'home' support at San Siro as Seedorf's cross crashes off the arm of Maicon in the area. How much intent there was on the defender's part is open to debate but it was an outstretched arm in the area. You have, as us hacks so often say, seen them given.

11 mins Wesley Sneijder hoofs the ball in a superbly sulky fashion after Boateng falls to the floor as though mortally wounded, only to turn around and see that the Milan player is already back on his feet. Oh come on, don't pretend it doesn't happen in [insert any other league here] too.

12 mins Inter seem to be doing most of their work down the left at the moment, which seems like an odd choice given that you've got a) Maicon at right-back and b) a less than pacy Zambrotta opposite him. Beyond that corner they've really done absolutely nothing going forwards so far.

14 mins Milan win a free-kick a few yards on the cusp of the D, but Pato's curling effort fails to clear the wall, clipping the last man on the ear and deflecting off a team-mate for a goal-kick.'s sport editor Sean Ingle will be delighted with that decision, having apparently placed his money tonight on less than 10.5 corners. Anyone got a more peculiar bet on than that?

15 mins Inter's turn to win a free-kick just outside the Milan box on the right and - surprise, surprise, someone is pointing one of those irritating green lasers in Wesley Sneijder's eyes.

16 mins Sneijder makes a total hash of the free-kick before storming over to the sideline to rant at the fourth-official about the laser. A reasonable complaint, in fairness, but unfortunately it's hard to imagine what the officials could actually do about it.

18 mins Sean's big bet takes a blow as Milan win a corner on the right, but Inter's prospects of getting back into this game remain exactly the same as Seedorf shanks an attempted volley over the bar after the ball is sent over into the middle. By the way, I think laser may have been understating it just now with Sneijder. Replays suggest more like 12.

19 mins A first sight of goal for Inter as Pazzini shrugs off a spectacularly feeble challenge from Zambrotta and stumbles into the box down the right-hand side. The striker's touch, though, takes the ball too close to the goalkeeper Abbiati, who is able to charge his poked effort down from close range.

21 mins Incidentally, this is Javier Zanetti's 35th consecutive Milan derby. Ridiculous.

22 mins "Leonardo is a man and manager to love," writes Ben Dunn, who presumably is not a Milanista. "He has been class throughout his career, excluding the face-breaking elbow and BBC commentary stint. A genuinely great football man. I hope he wins as we could be seeing a new Mourinho of management with a Brazilian love for aesthetic football."

23 mins Another corner for Inter, but Sneijder's delivery is returned to him and at the second attempt he succeeds only in knocking the ball behind.

24 mins As if Pato hadn't done enough to ingratiate himself with Berlusconi by - ahem - allegedly beginning to date the boss's daughter Barbara, he's also been easily the most dangerous looking player on the pitch for either team. Another attempted scoop from the edge of the area here drops just wide of Julio Cesar's goal.

25 mins And now Pato races past Chivu inside the area only for Ranocchia to come across to make an excellent, and crucial challenge. Inter, not for the first time under Leonardo, look massively uncertain at the back.

PENA ... oh wait, no it's not (26 mins) Hearts in mouths moment at San Siro as Robinho hits the turf face first inside the box under a challenge from Ranocchia and the referee Rizzoli whistles immediately. But the yellow card in his hand is not for the defender but Robinho himself, who does indeed appear on the replays to have taken a dive.

27 mins That really was unnecessary from Robinho - he'd just beaten his man inside the box and had a perfectly good opportunity to either have a dig himself or play in a team-mate. Frustrating.

29 mins Pandev goes down clutching his face after a collision with Zambrotta, but by the standards of this fixture it's been relatively good-tempered so far.

31 mins On the subject of Pato's dalliance with Barbara Berlusconi, have any readers out there ever enjoyed a romance with a boss's relative? How'd that work out? Seems like a dangerous path to go down for me, though many of the Italian papers have cited it in recent days as the proof he won't be sold in the summer.

32 mins Yup, probably spoke too soon on the nature of this game. Thiago Motta fails to connect with the ball as he goes into a challenge with Nesta and winds up planting his studs on top of his opponent's boot. No card given, though.

34 mins It's become quite scrappy here in the last few minutes, lots of niggly fouls that are keeping the game from developing any kind of flow. Sneijder thumps the ground angrily after a decision doesn't go his way. Not sure he's got his head in the right place today so far.

36 mins Inter prod and probe around the edge of the Milan area, but the Rossoneri have been exceptionally disciplined without the ball, with the whole midfield dropping back to defend as an extra bank of four in front of the defence. Eventually Inter lose possession and Milan race away on the break, only an ever-so-slightly overhit through-ball denying Pato what would have been an excellent goalscoring opportunity.

37 mins And now Milan hit the bar! Van Bommel looked up and let fly from more than 25 yards out and his shot ricocheted up off Chivu, looped over Julio Cesar but came down right onto the crossbar.

38 mins Fantastic save from Abbiati! About half the Inter team rushed straight to the sideline to protest after Motta's header from the corner was clawed away by the keeper, believing the ball had crossed the line, but replays suggest it was the right decision. Abbiati is still celebrating now.

41 mins Maicon becomes the first Inter player to go into the book after clattering into the back of Robinho near the half-way line.

42 mins Half-hearted calls for a penalty from Inter's fans after Pazzini prods a volley into a Milan player from close range. I have no idea if it hit his arm, but to appeal that either way is just silly.

43 mins How did that not go in? Seriously? Samuel Eto'o, of all people, was the culprit after Goran Pandev's cross from the right, flicked on by Cambiasso in the middle, fell right to him at the back post, but from about four yards out he scuffed the ball wide. Absolutely stunning miss - though as you'll recall, he missed a pretty easy one against Juventus earlier this season too.

45 mins I'm still trying to work out how Eto'o failed to put that one on target, but in the meantime, Pato flashes one over the bar down at the other end, after Boateng's cross is deflected into his path inside the box.

Peepety-peeep That's it for the first half, with Inter dominating possession towards the end of the half, but still looking just as likely to concede another as get back on terms - mostly because Ranocchia and Chivu have been deeply unconvincing at the back. For now, though, they're still in it. Back in a tick.

Dating the boss's offspring "I had a brief fling with my manager's son last year," announces Sara Filippi. "He broke up with me, however, and then two weeks later I got a promotion. In fairness I believe the two incidents were totally unrelated."

Old stagers on the big stage "Is my impression that both Milanese teams always seem to have a lot of really old players correct," asks Gary Naylor. "Is it a Milan thing or an Italian thing or even a continental thing? Or am I wrong?"

I think it's fair to say that in general Italy has had a problem with not enough teams bringing through young players in recent years. A study by the Professional Football Players' Observatory's demographic study earlier this season showed that Serie A was the continent's second-oldest top-flight, behind only the Cypriot first division. Furthermore, Inter, with an average age of 29.6-years-old, were the oldest team in Europe last year.

But it's also true that both Inter and Milan have finally been introducing younger players of late - Ranocchia and Coutinho at Inter, Alexander Merkel, Rodney Strasser and the like at Milan - after a run of not doing so. Indeed, I think you could paint a similar picture at a lot of clubs. But it's also probably true that in a big game like this managers tend to be cautious and go with experience.

46 mins We're off again at San Siro, and here's one to ponder for those who like omens. The last time Milan won both league derbies was 2003-04. That's also the last time they won the league.

47 mins No sooner are we under way than we have stopped again, Van Bommel knocking the ball out so Sneijder can receive treatment after he won the ball cleanly from his compatriot.

49 mins More niggly fouls to start this half, I'm afraid. This has mostly been a very entertaining game - tense, chances at both ends, some nice attacking football at times - but these periods do get frustrating with the whistle going every 10 seconds. Sadly I fear this will only get worse as the gamesmanship increases in the second half.

51 mins First substitution of the game, Milan sending on Mathieu Flamini for Gennaro Gattuso after the latter appeared to strain something during a challenge on Wesley Sneijder.

52 mins Flamini comes sprinting on but not quickly enough to reach his area in time for the taking of an Inter corner on the right, which Pazzini meets in the middle. His header deflects behind off Thiago Silva, but the referee awards a goal-kick instead of another corner. At his home in London, Sean Ingle celebrates.

RED CARD! 54 mins Christian Chivu is off for Inter! The Nerazzurri had been applying a spot of pressure but Boateng wins a challenge in the middle of the park and plays Pato in behind the defence with a wonderful through-ball. The Brazilian was in behind the defence but Chivu just clipped his heels as he jagged across the D, and the referee had no hesitation. Straight red.

55 mins Inter make an immediate substitution - taking off Goran Pandev and sending on Cordoba to replace Chivu in the centre of defence.

56 mins Thiago Silva's free-kick somehow fizzes straight through the wall, forcing Julio Cesar to react sharply to palm it away to his left. The ball flies straight to Boateng, too, but his attempted at a first-time volley goes horribly wrong, and he slices the ball high and wide.

58 mins Big, big ask this for Inter now, but as I say - as long as you have players like Eto'o on the pitch there is always a chance (even if he did miss an absolute sitter at the end of the first half). "Beautifully timed foul there, just a metre outside the box," declares Tom Haig. "Is that something footballers get specific coaching in?" You never know ...

60 mins Eto'o leaves Thiago Silva on his backside as he twists and turns inside the box, but Boateng is lurking just behind his team-mate and comes thundering in to muscle the Inter striker off the ball.

GOAL! Milan 2-0 Inter (Pato 62 mins) Game over? Inter appeal for offside but the linesman's flag is staying down after Pato heads home from close range. The move was initiated by Seedorf, who has been quietly superb as he pulls the strings in behind for Milan today, the Dutchman picking out Abate inside the Inter box before he clipped the ball across to Pato on the far side of the six-yard area. From there all he had to do was nod the ball into an empty net.

63 mins Before they even kick-off, Inter make their second change, sending on Diego Milito for Giampaolo Pazzini.

65 mins Milan's supporters sing Alexandre Pato's name with gusto, and who can blame them. If they do go on to win today, they will have a five point advantage over Inter but crucially also the tie-breaker were they to finish level.

66 mins Rope-a-dope stuff from Milan here now - drawing Inter forwards before hitting them fast on the break and Robinho really should make it three after racing through into a one-on-one with Julio Cesar. Instead his early shot is too close to the goalkeeper, who palms away.

68 mins Another chance goes begging for Milan, as Boateng sees a shot knocked behind. They probably should have scored more by now. Incidentally, Milan would also have the tie-breaker over Napoli, but not necessarily over Udinese. The two teams drew 4-4 at San Siro, and meet again on the last weekend of the season, which could be very interesting indeed if matters aren't settled by then. Both Napoli and Udinese, of course, will have been hoping that Inter would do them a favour tonight, though ...

71 mins Time for Inter's last change - Esteban Cambiasso coming off to be replaced by Dejan Stankovic.

72 mins My word, how was that not a third? Pato plays in Robinho with a simple side-footed pass but having forced the keeper to go to ground, the forward fails to find the net - chipping the ball over Julio Cesar but not over Ivan Cordoba, who was tracking back. For all he does right at Milan, Robinho really does miss a spectacular number of chances.

74 mins There really has been no hint of a reaction from Inter here since that second goal. Milan are doing a great job of stretching the field and making Inter's 10 men chase them. The Nerazzurri look burned out already.

76 mins Flamini has the ball in the net for Milan but the flag had long been up for offside, the midfielder having ever-so-slightly mistimed his run in from the right.

77 mins Another minute, another missed opportunity for Robinho. Seedorf had all the time in the world to pick his pass after Sneijder gave the ball away in midfield and he did so expertly, allowing Robinho to take the ball in stride, but once again the Brazilian failed to show sufficient composure in front of goal, thwacking the ball straight into Julio Cesar.

79 mins "Is it a bit misty in Milan, or do I need to fix the colour on my telly," asks Iain Cameron. I can't speak for your telly Iain, but the fans have been setting off the odd firework in the stands.

80 mins Robinho is put out of his misery at last, as Allegri sends on Antonio Cassano in his stead. In fairness, he's had a pretty good game - but on another day his wastefulness in front of goal might have been a bigger issue.

81 mins Eto'o wriggles free inside the Milan box on the right, but nobody is able ot meet his firmly-struck ball across the six-yard box. It was probably a shot, to be honest.

84 mins Time for Milan's last change - Alexandre Pato the man to make way for Urby Emmanuelson. No hat-trick for him, then. The cameraman, unsurprisingly, takes this opportunity to cut to a shot of Barbara Berlusconi in the stands.

86 mins Milan are stroking the ball around now, just waiting out the minutes until the final whistle. There was much discussion in the build-up to this derby of whether this game would be "decisive" in the title race, and it certainly feels more likely to be so with Milan winning. They have one or two tough games yet to play, but with no Champions League fixtures left to worry about, they should be good enough to see this home. Then again, they should have been good enough to beat Palermo and Bari in their last two games, and they didn't ...

PENALTY! (88 mins) Zanetti pulls Cassano back as the striker takes a long ball down in the box, and Rizzoli once again has no hesitation. Penalty to Milan, and a chance to rub salt into Inter's wound.

GOAL! Milan 3-0 Inter (Cassano 90 mins) Silvio Berlusconi gets his wish - Antonio Cassano on the scoresheet and three points in the derby. Not a brilliant penalty - struck low and only a few feet to the left of the centre of the goal, but Julio Cesar went the other way and the ball nestled in the back of the net. Cassano, in typically a typically unnecessary move, takes his shirt off celebrating and picks up a booking for his troubles.

RED CARD! (90 mins +2) Incredible - Cassano has got himself sent off! A totally unnecessary late tackle, just moments after his totally unnecessary celebration, earns him a second yellow card. A classic Cassanata, and no mistake.

Peep! Peep! Peeeeeep! That's it - Milan win their second derby of the season and take a huge step towards ending Inter's run of five consecutive Serie A titles. Their advantage over the Nerazzurri is now five points and it will be up to Napoli tomorrow to beat fifth-placed Lazio to keep themselves within touching distance of the leaders. Fixtures still to play away to Fiorentina, Roma and Udinese make it clear that nothing is won yet for the Rossoneri, but this is certainly a huge hurdle overcome. As for Inter, they will need to pick themselves up fast for their Champions League meeting with Schalke on Tuesday. Anyway, that's it from me for tonight. Thanks for all your emails.

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