Zapata strikes late as Milan draw Inter

MILAN: Cristian Zapata hit a dramatic late leveller as AC Milan snatched a 2-2 draw with Inter Milan at the San Siro on Saturday in the city’s first Chinese-owned derby. Long-suffering Milan fans had reason to feel positive on Easter weekend after the club was taken over by Chinese-led consortium Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux two days ago in a multi-million euro deal. But until Zapata’s bundled effort hit the crossbar and bounced over the line following a corner in the seventh minute of added-on time, the Rossoneri were on their way to defeat. Despite a brilliant start from Vincenzo Montella’s visitors to the clubs’ shared ground — Carlos Bacca firing just over and on-loan Everton man Gerard Deulofeu hitting the upright in the opening minutes — Inter were more clinical when it mattered.

Antonio Candreva did well to hold off his marker and chip a long ball past goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma on 36 minutes. Inter captain Mauro Icardi had the hosts 2-0 up on 44 minutes when he strolled in unmarked to poke Ivan Perisic’s cross past the 18-year-old goalkeeper. Inter, owned by Chinese group Suning since June 2016, had further chances early in the second half and although keeper Samir Handanovic was decisive more than once, the big Slovenian was left stranded when Alessio Romagnoli met Suso’s cross at the back post to hit what initially seemed a late consolation on 83 minutes. Inter looked nevertheless to be heading for a win that would have taken them up to sixth, one point ahead of Milan as both clubs fight for a Europa League place.

But Nerazzurri hopes were dashed when Bacca got on the end of Suso’s corner to set up Zapata for a messy winner bundled home from a tight angle. “We kept on pushing till the end and maybe we were a little bit lucky, but when you consider Inter were lucky to level late in our last derby, we feel we deserved the draw,” said Montella. “Our first half hour was good, we created chances, but we weren’t clinical enough. At this level you have to be clinical when you get two or three chances.”

The draw left Milan sixth, one point behind Atalanta in fifth and the final Europa League qualifying place. Atalanta travel to title-chasing Roma, who are six points behind leaders Juventus, later in the day. Inter remain seventh, still two points behind their city rivals, and coach Stefano Pioli lamented: “We didn’t win because we didn’t wrap up the game. “We had chances to score the third goal, and didn’t take them. I think with a little bit more concentration we’d be going home with the three points.” Milan enjoyed a great start, Bacca firing over from four yards seconds into the game after a mix-up in the Inter defence. But after seeing Deulofeu hit the upright from a tight angle, the hosts took command when Candreva held off Mattia De Sciglio to beat Donnarumma with a fine chip. — AFP

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