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Zapata strikes late as Milan salvage derby draw

Cristian Zapata hit a dramatic late leveller as AC Milan snatched a 2-2 draw with Inter Milan at the San Siro on Saturday in the city's first Chinese-owned derby.

AC Milan’s defender from Colombia Cristian Zapata celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the Italian Serie A football match Inter Milan vs AC Milan at “San Siro” Stadium in Milan on April 15, 2017. GIUSEPPE CACACE / AFP

Cristian Zapata hit a dramatic late leveller as AC Milan snatched a 2-2 draw with Inter Milan at the San Siro on Saturday in the city’s first Chinese-owned derby.

Long-suffering Milan fans had reason to feel positive on Easter weekend after the club was taken over by Chinese-led consortium Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux two days ago in a multi-million euro deal.

But until Zapata’s bundled effort hit the crossbar and bounced over the line following a corner in the seventh minute of added-on time, the Rossoneri were on their way to another morale-sapping defeat.

Despite a brilliant start from Vincenzo Montella’s nominal visitors in the ground the two clubs share — Carlos Bacca firing just over and on-loan Everton man Gerard Deulofeu hitting the upright in the opening minutes — Inter were more clinical when it mattered.

Antonio Candreva, who hit Inter’s opener in the corresponding fixture earlier this season which also finished 2-2, did well to hold off his marker and chip a long ball past goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma on 36 minutes.

Inter captain Mauro Icardi had the hosts 2-0 up on 44 minutes when he strolled in unmarked to poke Ivan Perisic’s cross past the 18-year-old goalkeeper.

Inter, owned by Chinese group Suning since June 2016, had further chances early in the second half and although keeper Samir Handanovic was decisive more than once, the big Slovenian was left stranded when Alessio Romagnoli met Suso’s cross at the back post to hit what initially seemed a late consolation on 83 minutes.

Inter looked nevertheless to be heading for a win that would have taken them up to sixth, one point ahead of Milan as both clubs fight for a Europa League place.

But Nerazzurri hopes were dashed when Bacca got on the end of Suso’s corner to set up Zapata to bundle home from a tight angle.

The draw left Montella’s men sixth, one point behind Atalanta in fifth and the final Europa League qualifying place. Atalanta travel to title-chasing Roma, who are six points behind leaders Juventus, later in the day.

Inter remain seventh, still two points behind their city rivals.

Milan enjoyed a great start, Bacca firing over from four yards seconds into the game after a mix-up in the Inter defence following Matias Fernandez’s charge through the middle.

Icardi bundled over from five yards at the other end after a promising run by Portugal midfielder Joao Mario.

And after seeing Deulofeu hit the upright from a tight angle, the hosts took command when Candreva held off Mattia De Sciglio to beat Donnarumma with a fine chip.

The red and black section of the San Siro fell deadly silent when Icardi was allowed to run in unmarked on 44 minutes to poke Ivan Perisic’s pinpoint delivery into the net.

Inter were far more enterprising after the break, Icardi breaking clear down the left and delivering for Perisic but the Croatian’s effort was straight at Donnarumma.

Deulofeu, though, started exerting his influence and forced a great one-handed save from Handanovic with a bouncing strike before narrowly failing to reach Bacca’s ball to the back post.

Montella urged his men up the pitch and with seven minutes remaining Romagnoli launched the fightback with a volley from Suso’s cross that beat Handanovic.

With virtually the last kick of the game, Zapata put the smiles on Milan faces with an awkward effort that required goalline technology to confirm it had crossed the line.