Inter in title chase, Milan in freefall

Emmeline MOORE
Inter Milan's captain forward Mauro Icardi (L) shows his jersey to supporters as he celebrates with teammates at the end of the Italian Serie A football match against AC Milan October 15, 2017

Mauro Icardi's heroics proved Inter Milan are ready to reclaim the Serie A title for the first time since 2010, club president Massimo Moratti insisted Monday, as AC Milan were left in crisis.

Captain Icardi fired Inter to a dramatic 3-2 victory in the Derby della Madonnina, which moved them 10 points clear of city rivals AC Milan and just two behind leaders Napoli, with champions Juventus in third after losing at home for the first time in two years.

"Yesterday (Sunday) I felt more like a fan than ever before. The game was fascinating and beating Milan is always special," Moratti told Italian radio.

"It's the clash that the people of Milan feel most, regardless of the table.

"They (leaders Napoli) are very good, but at the same time, Inter started off quietly and gave me the impression of being more of a team.

"They can overcome Napoli and go for the Scudetto."

The derby between the two former European superpowers was not only about city rivalry but also one of Chinese owners -- Zhang Jindong, whose Suning Group bankrolls Inter Milan and Li Yonghong's Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux Group, which owns AC Milan.

AC Milan have been completely overhauled at a cost of 230 million euros ($270 million) by Li, who already paid 740 million euros to buy the club last April.

Zhang's Suning group paid nearly 270 million euro for Inter Milan in June 2016.

Both teams have won 18 Serie A titles -- second only to the 33 won by Juventus -- with Milan last winning in 2011 while Inter's last championship was the previous season in 2010, when Jose Mourinho led the club to the Champions League, the Italian Cup and Serie A.

Inter’s seventh win of the season under Luciano Spalletti was enough to paint the city of Milan black and blue.

"To win these matches has a wonderful taste,” said Spalletti.

"We've stockpiled a lot of points now which will help for the future and we want to push for as many points as possible."

And he heaped praise on Icardi after his hat-trick heroics.

"Mauro was great. He was fundamental, he helped the team as he went to recover the ball, lessening the burden on his teammates. Then, he made no mistakes in attacking space in the box or with his finishing. He’s a strong player, he’s complete for his age and he takes on great responsibility."

Inter next go head to head with Napoli who maintained their perfect run of eight wins in win over Roma.

"We’ll go there to play but Napoli are a great side and (Maurizio) Sarri is doing a brilliant job."

AC Milan dropped to tenth place -- 12 points behind leaders Napoli and ten adrift of second-placed Inter -- after their fourth defeat piled the pressure on coach Vincenzo Montella.

"Looking at the table right now, everything might seem out of reach, but the season is very long and we can make up ground," insisted Montella.

AC Milan chief Marco Fassone backed Montella despite a third straight Serie A defeat. "Vincenzo is staying with us. When you change this much, as we did, you need time," said Fassone.

"AC Milan should not be in that position and we have to climb back," insisted Fassone, appointed managing director after Li's Rossoneri Sport Investment bought the club from former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"We are starting to see the first positive signs, but Montella will still have time to continue his work," continued Fassone.

"Things will change eventually."

Mario Balotelli, now at Nice but previously at both clubs in Milan, urged AC to make a bid for Icardi. "He's a true 'bomber'. Maybe Milan will wake up and buy him!," said the Nice player on Instagram.