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Morra On February - 14 - 2011

Juventus Outlasts Inter - Saves Season?

The Derby D’Italia is always a sight to be seen. Regardless of the two teams’ positions in the table, their current form, or their injury situation, you can guarantee that the game will be physical, tactical, emotional and exciting. Yesterday’s match certainly was no different.

All that separated the two clubs yesterday was an Alessandro Matri header in the 30th minute and a shocking miss by Samuel Eto’o in the 89th. Juventus bent but didn’t break and emerged with a potentially season swinging victory.

For Inter, this game certainly wasn’t a must-win occasion, and with their Champions League tie with Bayern Munich looming, I suppose they could be excused for being the less motivated and energetic of the two sides yesterday.

For Juventus, this game meant everything.

The game started off in typical Juve-Inter fashion. Juventus happy to keep their shape and force the play outside. And Inter obliged with a slow, plodding attack.

The game broke open when Mitra (“Tommy Gun” in English) Matri wrong-footed Julio Cesar on a sublime cross from 18-year-old Frederik Sorensen. Ivan Cordoba and Andrea Ranocchia were literally completely out of the picture on Matri’s header. The Bianconeri secured a crucial opening goal that allowed them to remain in their banks of four throughout the rest of the match.

Coach Gigi Delneri opted to trot out a back four of Sorensen, Bonucci, Barzagli and Chiellini after having success with it in their victory against Cagliari. With the re-emergence of Sorensen (after a shaky few games) and the seamless transition to left back by Giorgio Chiellini, it seems that Delneri has found a defensive unit that he can have confidence in.

The second half provided a much improved pace with Inter starting to push up the field with a bit more urgency. In the 53rd minute, Matri missed a free header (identical to his first one) and then seconds later was denied by a sliding Cordoba on a running volley attempt inside the box.

Perhaps the most interesting battle of the day was between the diminutive Cordoba and the lumbering Luca Toni with the two players colliding on aerial challenges frequently. Toni put in a great effort for the team, holding up ball after ball, but Cordoba did win a few headers from the big man. I’ll give the tussle a draw.

As the second half progressed, Maicon started to get more involved for Inter. He seemed to provide their only attacking option as Giampaolo Pazzini and Samuel Eto’o really could not find any room to operate. You might have been able to count Pazzini’s touches on one hand and Eto’o, although receiving much of the ball, could not slither his way into the box with the youngster Sorensen teaming up with Milos Krasic to double team Eto’o high up the pitch.

Despite a left-sided pairing of Claudio Marchisio and Chiellini, Maicon was still able to deliver a couple dangerous crosses, but they were all lacking a recipient. One reason was the excellent play of Leonardo Bonucci who surely had a little to prove with his ex-teammate from Bari, Ranocchia (generally regarded as the better of the two), playing opposite him.

I must say Thiago Motta and Houssine Kharja were completely anonymous for Inter. In the 60th minute Leonardo introduced Goran Pandev for Kharja, opting for a 4-2-1-3 attack, with the hopes of forcing Chiellini inside on Pandev and leaving space for Maicon. It was a clever switch which worked fairly well in my opinion.

What I couldn’t understand was his reluctance to use his final sub to remove a defender in favour of Obi or Coutinho. Sure, they’re not exactly difference makers but Juventus was operating with effectively ten men after Matri sustained a rib injury and lost almost all his mobility.

In the 72nd minute, Delneri seemed to bungle his substitutions as he switched Pepe for Marchisio and Sissoko for Melo - leaving Matri, who was literally begging for a sub - to play on. It looked like the training staff strapped a seat cushion or a flak jacket to his ribs and shoved him back onto the field. However, it’s possible Del Neri had no choice as right when he introduced Pepe, Felipe Melo collapsed and had to be switched.

In the 82nd, Gigi Buffon was forced to make a fantastic sliding challenge on Eto’o as the lightning quick striker finally managed to find something in the box.

In the 89th, Simone Pepe committed an egregious error, turning the ball over to Maicon. The right back slipped in a neat ball to the back post and onto the foot of a waiting Eto’o. But somehow the striker smashed the ball off the crossbar and then Pazzini had his shot blocked by a diving Chiellini.

The rest was elementary for Juventus as they kept all 11 (really 10 and a half) men behind the ball and hung on for the three points.

Delneri deserves credit for his new defensive lineup and his ability to keep the team’s spirits high throughout their dip in play. But Giuseppe Marotta must be applauded for his band-aid work in the January window. Matri and Toni have been responsible for all Juve’s goals in their past two wins and Andrea Barzagli has provided excellent play in the center of the defense allowing Chiellini to play left back (and play it superbly).

With this win Juventus keeps pace with top-four candidates Lazio and Udinese, topples their biggest rival and swings their season completely.

For Inter, they still remain legitimate Scudetto contenders and with a win against Fiorentina (their game in hand), will sit only five points out of a tie with Milan.

  • Ted

    Nice for Juve. But I think there supporters are getting carried away. Juve are still in 6th place.

    From what the Juve supporters I’ve spoken too, you’d of thought Juve won the Scudetto. Or won a CL tie. You’d of thought this was the first time Juve beat in Inter in decades, when that’s not the case.

    As a self described Milanista, I cannot be happier seeing Inter drop points.

    Lets hope the Viola pull through and stop Inter.

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