Inter and AC Milan battled to a 1-1 draw during a crucial Derby della Madoninna clash in Serie A at San Siro on Sunday.
Stephan El Shaarawy's razor-sharp finish opened the scoring for the Rossoneri who should have been out of sight by half time, but wasted a number of chances, with Mario Balotelli particularly at fault for a few glaring misses.
And with 19 minutes remaining, the Nerazzurri would make them pay for their profligacy, when substitute Ezequiel Schelotto powered home a header to ensure that his side would take home a share of the spoils, which leaves them one point behind Milan in third place. Ricky Alvarez was handed a surprise start in midfield, with Yuto Nagatomo and Walter Gargano also stepping into the side. For Milan, Balotelli, ineligible during the Champions League midweek, returned to displace Giampaolo Pazzini against his former club.
The first half belonged to the Rossoneri. Mattia De Sciglio’s early shot was saved before his flashed cross found Balotelli unmarked yards from goal, but the forward’s first touch let him down badly, and allowed Samir Handanovic to claim, when he should have had no chance.
It was a golden opportunity wasted, but Milan, who was bettering its rival in all areas of the pitch, would make no such mistake with their next opening 21 minutes in.
Sulley Muntari did excellently to win the ball and feed Kevin-Prince Boateng, who slipped in the sprinting El Shaarawy between two defenders for a thunderous finish into the corner.
Inter, abject up front and shambolic at the back, was hanging on for dear life, and indeed, owed a lot of debt to Handanovic for keeping it in the contest.
The Slovenian was at his very best to tip away a Balotelli header from point blank range before standing tall to deny the 22-year-old a tap-in from inside the six-yard area.
Minutes before the interval, Handanovic won the battle against Balotelli yet again, reacting well to thwart the striker’s 30-yard free-kick as the Nerazzurri somehow ended the first half only a goal down.
It took Andrea Stramaccioni’s men the best part of an hour to get their first real chance on goal. Rodrigo Palacio’s superb cross was met with conviction by Fredy Guarin, but Christian Abbiati did excellently to save, with Antonio Cassano striking the rebound onto the post.
Handanovic did well to touch a cross away from the onrushing Balotelli, as Milan looked to regain its first-half dominance. But instead, with 19 minutes remaining, Inter found a way back into the match.
Nagatomo sent an in-swinging cross into the area where Schelotto, only on as a substitute for three minutes, rose highest to thump a punishing header past Abbiati for the equalizer.
Muntari sent a long-range piledriver whistling inches wide of the post, and Schelotto forced a good save out of Abbiati with another header, but there was no more to come, as both teams were foced to settle for a point apiece.