Mmaybe it was victory peak or maybe it was the mid 2000s nightclub playlist blaring from the speakers inside the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh, but Edin Dzeko felt young again. “Your birthday is coming up,” her interviewer told Mediaset. “How old are you going to be?”
“I’m going to be 22,” Dzeko replied with a laugh, and on a night like Wednesday, you almost wanted to believe it. He had beaten a player of that age, Sandro Tonali, about to score the second goal in Internazionale’s 3-0 Supercoppa victory over Milan, dropping his shoulder as he cut inside to finish ruthlessly through the goal.
How many 22-year-olds, however, would have had the wisdom to play the opening pass that Dzeko used to unlock the defense for Game 1? Receiving the ball from Matteo Darmian in the right channel, he immediately sent it past the defense and into the wake of Nicolò Barella, who crossed for Federico Dimarco to score.
The Bosnian turns 37 in March, although in Italy some are beginning to suspect him of being a real Benjamin Button. Dzeko has scored seven Serie A goals this season, and three more in the Champions League, along with a handful of others.
He was an obvious choice in the fans’ vote for Man of the Match on Wednesday, an honor that earned him a special card in Fifa 23’s Ultimate Team mode, but not the rights to the ball he scored with. After each goal, the match balls were removed and placed in display cases ready to be sold to the highest bidder in auctions using the clubs’ cryptocurrency fan reward schemes.
The drive to tap into every possible revenue stream from this event isn’t new – there’s a reason it’s been held in eight cities, across four countries, over the past 11 years – but it was particularly lively this time around. The empty seats in the stands contrasted sharply with the emotions on the pitch.
It’s the least of the competitions these teams have entered this season, but the Supercoppa is still a trophy to take home and the derby is still the derby. Inter had not forgotten the sting of watching their rivals strip them of the Serie A title in May. Moreover, they had not forgotten how it was celebrated.
Four Milano the players were fined by the Italian Football Federation for their actions during the team’s open-top bus celebrations, leading chants, holding banners or, in Tonali’s case, wearing a t-shirt , with offensive phrases about Inter. Dzeko was one of many who made it clear that he hadn’t forgotten. “When you win something, you have to celebrate. But you can also respect the opponent.
Hakan Calhanoglu, having moved from Milan to Inter in the summer of 2021, faced further abuse last spring. He was stung by the behavior of former teammates he considered friends. “I always prefer to stay quiet, but it was really heavy for me to see things I didn’t expect,” he said after collecting his medal. “Karma is coming. We were hungry today… we devoured them.
It was an apt description of Inter’s performance, pouncing on Milan and engulfing them before they had a chance to make a game out of it. Dimarco’s goal came in the 10th minute, Dzeko’s in the 21st.
Rafael Leão carved out a half chance for Milan at 1-0 and another just after the break, but that was about all they could handle. Lautaro Martínez completed the scoring for Inter, getting rid of Fikayo Tomori with embarrassing ease before finishing with the outside of his boot.
Inter were the best version of themselves under Simone Inzaghi: direct, explosive, ruthless in the moments that mattered. Milan looked like a team that had forgotten all the qualities that won them the title last season.
They have won once in five matches since the World Cup break, drawing with Roma and Lecce either side of a Coppa Italia loss to Torino. The fear for them is that this defeat reinforces such negativity for another big game, away to Lazio on Tuesday.
Inter hope the win can reinvigorate their title bid. They are 10 points behind league leaders Napoli. that they beat at the start of this year only to lose most of what they had won by drawing with Monza three days later.
On Wednesday, however, they just wanted to enjoy the moment. Each player had their own story of what this victory meant. Dimarco, a lifelong Inter fan, grew up dreaming of scoring against Milan in the final. Martínez, one month away from becoming world champion, is getting into the habit of winning.
The same goes for Inzaghi. It was his third trophy in two years at Inter, after last season’s Supercoppa and Coppa Italia. He has built a reputation as a cup specialist in Italy, leading Lazio to victory twice in this game as well as a Coppa Italia triumph. Inter’s elimination of Barcelona from the Champions League this season has further cemented those credentials.
Whether he can build from here to claim bigger prize money will depend on many factors – his ability to put in more consistent performances against lesser teams, the return of Romelu Lukaku and a tighter defense to none. name a few. But having Dzeko in this form can only help.
The striker’s experience and composure in big games is becoming a factor for Inter, just like Olivier Giroud did for Milan last season. It was Dzeko who scored the winner against Napoli this month and was asked after that game how long he sees himself staying at Inter. “As long as I can tell the difference,” was the reply.
He did exactly that in Riyadh.
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