The game started at lightening pace with both sides playing end-to-end football. Juventus looked the hungrier side as their first chance came after just five minutes. Amauri chested the ball to Momo Sissoko who attempted a volley. But Sulley Muntari applied just enough pressure which took the sting out of the shot.
Inter were not to be suppressed as Esteban Cambiasso was pumping long balls to his forward teammates to work on. In the 11th minute, one such accurate long ball found Diego Milito who attempted to find Stankovic in the penalty area but his pass was cleared by Giorgio Chiellini. The deadlock was broken on the 20th minute in a chaotic fashion when Diego’s free kick deflected off Felipe Melo and Alessandro Del Piero. A confused Julio Cesar could not keep the rolling ball out of the net as Juve took the lead. The lead did not last for long as Inter leveled after just six minutes. Dejan Stankovic’s cross from the right hand side found an unmarked Samuel Eto’o who headed the ball home, scoring the tie at the end of first half.
Inter pressed forward from the restart of the second half. But it was the home side who took the lead on 58th minute. Buffon initiated a swift counter attack at the end of which Sissoko took a powerful shot from outside the box. Julio Cesar could only parry the shot away as it fell to Claudio Marchisio. The central midfielder did well to wiggle past Walter Samuel and chip the ball over the on-rushing goalkeeper. This second goal seemed to disrupt the Nerazzurri rhythm. They pushed forward in desperation but could not overcome a stubborn Juventus midfield and backline. Juve went down to ten men as Felipe Melo received marching orders after a second yellow. But the Bianconeri held on to an epic, emotional win.
Claudio Marchisio : “Our belief and conviction changed everything. Inter are a top club, we know that, but beating them tonight was very important. We must continue like this and not lose our path, without forgetting that Milan are also in front.”
Esteban Cambiasso: “In that moment the game went crazy, play was stopping every couple of minutes, there was a brawl that went on for a while. It was crazy. We knew before this that Juventus would fight to the end for the Scudetto and with this result, which is a shame as everyone cares about this game, we remain four points clear.”
This edition of Derby d’Italia was a delight to watch, for neutrals and the Bianconeri faithful. The rivalry between Juventus and Inter has reached new heights and this match was always going to be intense. With the return of Sissoko and Marchisio from injuries, Juventus reverted to the 4-3-1-2 formation which was employed at the start of the season. The Old Lady started the game with an incredible pace and hunger. If they played each match with this energy, the gap from the top would have been much smaller. The first goal was controversial for it is not exactly clear as to who scored it! But the Lega Calcio appears to have credited Felipe Melo. Mourinho can never avoid controversy as he was sent off for his sarcastic gesture towards referee after the first goal.
It seems the Bianconeri have not learnt much from the Bordeaux game as the set piece defending for Inter’s goal was awful. Not marking a player of Eto’o’s caliber is suicidal. Buffon was visibly angry as the defence switched off for the free kick. Fabio Cannavaro had another poor game as he could not cope up with the pace of Inter forwards. But his defensive partner Chiellini was as solid as ever. Martin Caceres is proving to be a wonderful solution to Juventus’ right-back problems. The Uruguayan defender, who is on loan from Barcelona, was a bundle of energy as he made many darting runs, lunged at an Inter player at every opportunity and made some crunching tackles. Given that he is just 22 years old, the Old Lady would be looking to secure his services on a permanent basis and make him the first-choice right-back for years to come.
Marchisio is turning out to be a fine, all-round midfielder. To score the goal with such composure in a high pressure environment against a quality keeper like Julio Cesar is mark of a legend in making. Mario Balotelli won’t be making new friends or fans anytime soon. Given the history of racist chants towards him from Juventini, this was always going to be a tense match for him. He had an opportunity to silence the jeering Turin crowd with his undisputed talent. But within a minute of coming on to pitch, he collided with a Juve player and gestured him to get up as if he was playacting when the latter was clearly hurt. In the incident when Felipe Melo was sent off, there was little contact between the Brazilian and Balotelli, but the youngster made most of it by clutching his face. As if arrogance was not enough, Balotelli has added unsporting behavior as another negative quality. This incident caused tempers to flare up as several players from both sides, including the otherwise calm Buffon, were involved in pushing and shoving.
Even though there is talk of Scudetto race being reopened, one must not forget that Inter are four and five points clear of Milan and Juventus, respectively. League titles are often decided against smaller teams. However, this match will serve as a reminder that Inter won’t have an easy run towards a fifth consecutive title.
Juventus 2-1 Inter – Felipe Melo 20, Marchisio 58 – Eto’o 26
Juventus (4-3-1-2): Buffon – Caceres, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Grosso – Felipe Melo, Sissoko, Marchisio (Poulsen 81) – Diego (Grygera 90) – Del Piero (Camoranesi 71), Amauri
Inter (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar – Zanetti, Samuel (Materazzi 89), Lucio, Chivu – Muntari (Balotelli 59), Cambiasso (Mancini 78), Thiago Motta – Stankovic – Eto’o, Milito
Juventus – Inter
5 – Corners – 9
10 (8) – Shots (on target) – 8 (4)
19 – Fouls – 17
3 (1) – Yellow cards (Red) – 3 (0)
3 – Offside – 4