MANCHESTER CITY could find a familiar face to stand in the way of their Champions League dream.
Two Premier League castaways dominated the Milan derby in this semi-final first leg as ex-City Husband Edin Dzeko and former Manchester United Midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan stunned AC Milan and left Inter on the brink of a first final since 2010.
This famous old stadium literally shook with a deafening roar from both sides of the Milan support for over an hour before this city’s biggest game in two decades.
Milan’s ultras unveiled a shimmering tifo of Satan and a sign warning: “Hell is empty all devils are here.”
The devil may have been here, but Rafael Leao wasn’t, either in the eleven or on the bench. The first of Milan’s many problems.
Milan’s ferocious support had been building since yesterday morning’s meeting in the city’s Piazza del Duomo, only to have their dreams shattered within ten minutes of Dzeko.
With Leao unfit and another Premier League outcast in Romelu Lukaku on the bench for Inter, those two were led by European veterans in Dzeko, 37, and 36-year-old Olivier Giroud.
And it was Dzeko who used all his experience to create a great first set after eight minutes, drifting towards the back post to hit Hakan Calhanoglu’s corner and hooking his leg around defender Davide Calabria to distract him .
Giroud barely had a kick, isolated and ineffective at the top.
Milan were shocked and the back four were still swaying as 34-year-old Mkhitaryan sauntered through and struck home a second later three minutes later as they watched as they stood still on stick.
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In a theater of thunderous support for two teams desperate for the horror of losing to each other, this should be a low-key affair.
But Inter are in fine form having won five straight away and surpassed Milan in Serie A over the weekend and have had none of it.
Milan were scared and chaotic, Inter rampant and reckless.
Milan had conceded just one goal in the previous six Champions League semi-finals at San Siro. Now they had sent two in 11 minutes.
It could have been three five minutes later when Calhanoglu smashed an attempt into the inside of the post from 25 yards before Mkhitaryan’s follow-up was stopped by Mike Maignan.
Fikayo Tomori and Simon Kjaer were spared further embarrassment when, after Lautaro Martinez wound between them and hit the deck, the Spanish referee overturned his decision to award a penalty following a VAR review.
But Milan didn’t take the chance offered to them and the waves of Inter chances continued largely unchallenged.
Dimarco, Martinez and Denzel Dumfries all had chances for the three before the break.
Leao, watching from the stands alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic, buried his head in his hands.
Ibrahimovic did almost the same thing towards the end of the second half.
Substitute Junior Messias sent a shot wide but it was still all blue and black immediately after the restart.
Milan’s massive support didn’t back down, filling San Siro with red smoke and unleashing two deafening firecrackers to try and bring their side to life.
It almost worked when Sandro Tonali hit the post with a low shot as they looked more threatening.
If Stefano Pioli’s side had been half as fierce as they were in the Curva Sud, it would have been a very different clash – but their slight improvement in the second half was never enough.
Having never beaten Milan in a European clash before, it was Inter’s night and they can claim a shot at immortality in next week’s second leg.