Self-confidence is something Zlatan Ibrahimović could never be accused of lacking but even the Swede admitted that Sunday's 1-0 derby victory against his old club FC Internazionale Milano would provide AC Milan with an important injection of belief.
"I always think that my team are the strongest and so I did when I joined Milan in the summer," said Ibrahimović after earning and scoring the penalty which allowed the Rossoneri to stay top of the Serie A table, six points above their city rivals, who lie third. "However, this hard-fought victory will surely be a boost for our self-esteem. It's still early in the season but we believe that we can win in Italy and in Europe."
Inter, who were undefeated at home since 22 March 2008, won both derbies last season scoring six goals and conceding none. Ahead of kick-off the Nerazzurri fans did everything they could to remind their rivals of last season's treble, but Milan showed no inferiority complex and took the lead after four minutes when Ibrahimović was fouled in the box by Marco Materazzi and converted the subsequent penalty just under the Curva Nord where the most passionate Inter supporters are.
"It was not easy to take that penalty in that goal but fortunately I managed to keep my focus," the 29-year-old striker said. "I think that early goal helped the whole team to play better and we could have scored more in the first half."
Inter failed to create any serious opportunities to equalise even after Milan right-back Ignazio Abate was sent off with 30 minutes to play. "We played with great heart," added Ibrahimović, who won the Scudetto three times during his spell at Inter. "We all understood that we had to give everything we had to earn these three points. I was really tired in the last part of the game and the final whistle was a great relief. We have worked very hard but finally we have been repaid for our efforts."
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, who dedicated the victory to the recently injured Filippo Inzaghi and Alexandre Pato, praised Ibrahimović's contribution after the game. "He is a great player," he said. "Not only in terms of strength and technique but also because he is able to transmit his great character to the rest of the team, like leaders do. We won a special game, a game that will help us in terms of self-confidence but the 26 points we have would not be enough even to avoid relegation at the end of the season, so we know there is still plenty of work to do."
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