How much absurdity can you pack into one soccer game? Forever rivals AC Milan and Inter decided to find out on Tuesday in the 228th official edition of the Derby della Madonnina, a 2–1 Coppa Italia quarterfinal banger whose scoreline and late heroics by Christian Eriksen undersell the game itself. Given that it was a rivalry match between the top two teams in Serie A, you could expect an intense, high-quality affair; what these teams delivered instead was pure soccer insanity.
At the center of the whirlwind was, as he usually is, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Milan’s 39-year-old striker has been incredible this season, notching 12 goals in eight matches of Serie A play. Ibrahimovic kept up that scoring pace in this game, giving the Rossoneri an early lead with a goal in the 31st minute. Right before the teams went into the locker room for halftime, Ibrahimovic got into it with Inter striker Romelu Lukaku, which kicked off a big scrum:
It’s not exactly clear what set off Lukaku, beyond a hard shoulder-to-shoulder tackle from Alessio Romagnoli, but he got in the big Swede’s face afterwards, with teammates separating them. Apparently, Lukaku challenged his striker counterpart to meet him outside after the match in classic tough-guy fashion, at one point yelling “Fuck you and your wife.” For his part, Ibrahimović shouted “Go do your voodoo shit, you little donkey.” On the surface, that seems like a racist insult, and it might have been, though Ibrahimovic claimed otherwise after the game, saying he was referencing the “voodoo” incident from Lukaku’s time at Everton. He also tweeted an extremely Ibrahimovic message afterwards:
Regardless, both players received yellow cards for the scuffle, something that would play into the second half. In the 58th minute, Ibrahimovic received his second yellow for a clumsy tackle on Aleksandar Kolarov and was thus sent off, which set the stage for an Inter comeback. First, Lukaku thundered a ball in from the penalty spot in the 71st minute after a handball in the box by Rafael Leão. After a brief aside in the 77th minute when referee Paolo Valeri picked up an injury and we had the rare ref swap, the match stayed level at 1–1 until deep into the 10 minutes of stoppage time, when Eriksen entered the fray and uncorked one of his famously sublime free kicks to give Inter the win:
As a cup match, Tuesday’s result won’t have any bearing on what is set up to be an uncharacteristically tight Scudetto race. Luckily we’ll only have to wait about a month for the next league Derby della Madonnina, on February 21. Here’s hoping that one is just as intense and chippy and exciting, though maybe without any arguable racism.