It hurts. It definitely hurts. But in a weird way, it makes sense and it's good for us. This may not be what you wanted to hear, and nor will this be - Inter deserved the win.
It would be a mistake to call this game a fluke - a one game misfortune, since it's more than that. At the same time, we should do everything but panic. And panic we won't.
This is the time when leaders stay calm, reasonable, and learn from the team's collective mistakes to get better. Juventus has those leaders in our players and coaches.
Remember last year when we drew way too many games and could not for the life of us get a solid winning streak? If you step back and look at the last few games we've played, we've been in a very similar funk, just this time we somehow managed to win those games. The problems are only slightly different this year - we have better players in some positions, we actually create more goal-scoring chances, but the goal drought is still there, and we struggle to put away games in which we already have the advantage. There is more than one solution to this problem and I have full faith our coaching staff and management will figure it out. Deep down inside, so do you.
Looking at the 94 minutes that just transpired, what hurts the most is not that we lost to our biggest rival, but that we deserved to lose.
Inter - In a surprise move, Stramaccioni decided to play a 3-4-3 formation in the heart of Torino, which very few teams have the balls to do. Even more interestingly, Pirlo was left unmarked and Inter decided to try to break Juve down by collective pressing and intercepting passes early then going on the counter. The trident up front stretched Juve's defense and caused problems when our wing backs were late to slot back and help out. It was a risky set up by Stramaccioni which could've easily gone the wrong way if Juventus were a bit more decisive. However, given our recent performances that was hardly going to be the case. Another key thing that Inter bet on, and won, was the inability of our wing backs to make a difference in attack. This gave Zanetti and Nagatomo an easier job defensively and more space to push up on the counter.
Juventus - Conte and Alessio changed little tactically and were made to pay for it. Juventus was the predictable team on the eve and thus easier to break down. Our very own hastiness and impatience in attack hurt us greatly, as Giovinco and Vucinic were rarely able to connect and put pressure on Inter's weak defense. At the end of the game Alessio went with a 3-4-3 himself with Giovinco behind Quagliarella and Bendtner but that turned out to be a fruitless attempt at scoring as well.
It all happened way too fast right at the start of the game. Vucinic put Asamoah through on goal, whose wide shot fell perfectly for Vidal for the tap-in and opening goal. Inter didn't know what hit them - were they supposed to look at the linesman for offside or among themselves for the lackadaisical first 20 seconds? Turns out they should've stared down the ref on the side of the pitch, since he missed an offside on the pass to Asamoah. Instead, they looked on as the Juventus Stadium erupted, Vidal did his heart-shaped gesture, and Juve were off to an amazing start after just 18 seconds. Just like that it was 1-0.
It was a risky decision, really, to play 3 at the back and 3 up front for Stramaccioni. A young, inexperienced coach decided to try something he was convinced would work, and it started crumbling in the first minute of the game. It continued on too. Juventus were encouraged by the early goal and created multiple opportunities in which they could have, and really should have, put the game away early. Marchisio most notably had the chance to be the hero once again. Twice he made a run in the box and twice he was set up perfectly by Pirlo for a second goal. Unfortunately, our Principino didn't capitalize, and Inter survived the early rush.
Around the 15th minute you could see flashes of Inter's 3-4-3 formation coming back to life. The trident up front did well to overlap with the wingers on several occasions, winning corners and pushing Juve's defense back further. Cassano had the best chance of the half for the nerazzurri, but his curler was just wide off the rooted Buffon's far post.
Then a rested Arturo Vidal started coming into his own offensively. After being an absolutely beast defensively throughout the first 30 minutes, he started linking up with our forwards a lot better and had a golden opportunity at the end of the first half to really give Juventus an edge going into the break. Unfortunately, his shot from the right side of the field was saved by Handanovic. In truth, he should've done a lot better and put Juventus up 2-0 especially after scuffing away a golden opportunity on the counter earlier, when he decided to dribble instead of take a one-time shot on goal with his left foot.
Two different Juventus and Inter teams came out of the 15 minute break for the second half. Juventus was slower, almost complacent in midfield and started giving away possession more carelessly. The only actual chance early in the second half came from a cameo run by Bonucci, whose shot lacked just a little bit of accuracy to beat the Bosnian keeper.
Inter had woken up completely and were on the attack, trying to equalize through solid possession and good build up play. It took them 14 minutes to do so, when Milito was fouled in the area after a free kick and he himself converted a spot kick. But Inter didn't stop there.
Encouraged by the equalizer, Inter set up well defensively against the toothless Juventus attack now comprised of Giovinco and Bendtner and waited for its chance on the counter. That chance came on 75 minutes when Vidal gave away possession in midfield, giving Guarin a chance to run at Chiellini and shoot on goal. Buffon parried the shot but only to Milito's feet who pounced on the rebound for Inter's second.
As expected, our Bianconeri pushed for a second goal but had no conviction in attack. Palacio was able to sneak away a third goal for Inter on a counter late in the game after a Nagatomo run. Game, set, match for Inter.
Buffon: 6.5 - Was frustrated more today than in any match in recent history, and failed to be a difference-maker on the night with his performance. While you can't really blame him for any of the goals, you can't help but wish he would've been the Superman we needed on a couple of those occasion. To be fair to San Gigi, he anticipated the direction in which Palacio's shot was going to go and almost saved it, but ran out of luck there.
Barzagli: 6.5 - He was an absolute beast in the first 30 minutes of the game, anticipating Inter's counter-attacks well and breaking them up. Played a bit shakier as the game went on and had some referee decisions go against him, which seemed to frustrate him even more. He was up for the challenge though, always closing down even further up the pitch when necessary.
Bonucci: 6.5 - Left most of the hard work to Barzagli and Chiellini and played his usual game in the center of defense. Was in the right spot at the right time on several occasions in the first half. As the game went on and Inter gave us more trouble, he was tested a lot more. The fact that Chiellini and Barzagli were stretched out on his sides didn't help as he's used to having them to help out when necessary. It would've been lovely if he scored on that run of his - you see him blasting shots at goal in warmup before each game and you know he can hit them, just not sure if he's a "run with the ball and take a great shot" type of defender.
Chiellini: 6.5 - I was going to give him a 6 with a heavy heart, but I'll be a bit generous. He had some key interceptions throughout the game and looked really up for it, but I think his negatives overwhelmed the positives. Was repeatedly beaten by Palacio on his side and even though Juventus played deep at the beginning he still managed to give Palacio space behind him. Didn't quite close down Guarin on the second goal and left him with an open shot at Buffon, plus he made some rash tackles (who could've really gone either way) to give Inter more momentum. A tough game for our defense in general, luckily no one incident was down to an individual's fault so they can all bounce back stronger in midweek.
Lichtsteiner: 5.5 - Only played 38 minutes and almost got sent off in that time. If you ask me, that first yellow he received was not a yellow card, but he should've been booked for the high challenge on Palacio. He has the grinta and determination of a thousand Gods, but he needs to learn how to channel that into a composed yet effective performance in games like these.
Pirlo: 6.5 - One thing that screamed at me as the game went on is this genius of a football player is tired. He's played a ton and keeps chucking away, but on a night where he isn't man-marked he usually puts in a lot of great balls that are difficult for the opposition's defense to handle. After setting up Marchisio brilliantly on a couple occasions, he faded a bit and deferred build up play to our wingers and attackers who were all off on the night. I know we have a crucial game against the Danes coming, but Conte will need to find a time to give him a breather.
Marchisio: 6 - This may be harsh for our Principino, but he was really only visible offensively in the first 15 minutes. He's said it, his dad has said, we've all said it - Marchisio needs to score more on this team. Those 2 chances he had in the beginning should've resulted in at least one goal. After those, he ran a lot and covered great ground defensively, but was largely ineffective in the second half. Showed a flash of spirit late in the second 45 minutes on the left side with some great tackles in a row, but he seemed to be tired as well. Inter's midfield and attacking trio gave him a lot of headaches. People will blame him for the penalty and in honesty there was quite a bit of shirt pulling, but if that was a clear penalty then you can find one of those in every corner kick ever taken in Europe. Not a game to remember for Claudio, hoping he'll make more of a difference on Wednesday.
Vidal: 6.5 - At halftime I had the most bittersweet feeling about Arturo - he scored and had a great first half, energetic and full of confidence on the field. But then, he scuffed a couple great opportunities to put the game away and I was seriously mad at him for not taking a shot on that counter attack and instead opting to dribble in the box. Still, he had a very positive first half. Then the second 45 minutes came and he struggled. You can almost directly blame him for Milito's second goal as his turnover cost us that counter attack. In all, it was good to see a rested Vidal back in the squad, but he'll kick himself for not making more of an impact in the second half.
Asamoah: 6 - For the second game in a row he was more or less shot down on the left side, this time by the genius of Javier Zanetti. After his inadvertent assist on Vidal's goal his contribution waned and it took him a bit to realize cutting in is also an option when taking on Zanetti. In defense, his physicality helped us but the nature of Inter's play, on the counter, meant that he had little time to help out by the time he got back next to Chiellini.
Giovinco: 6 - To be honest, I don't understand some of the rage directed at the tiny striker after the game. While blaming one player for this loss would be futile anyways, most of the verbal attacks I've seen on players have been aimed directly at Giovinco. From what I've read online there was plenty of verbal abuse aimed at the Atomic Ant from the fans at the stadium as well. To me, Giovinco's performance was a typicall for him as of late. Did a lot, ran a lot, tried many runs and link up plays, but his touch is just not there. Not only his finishing touch, but at times his first touch and passing timing as well. He's not performing the way we've hoped he would be and there's a reason the goals are lacking. I still maintain he just needs a break out game where he bangs a goal or two to feel better about himself. Should Conte put him in a trequartista role on Wednesday? Maybe, he's certainly showed that he can track back as well when necessary (something he was lacking earlier in his career). Either way, I don't blame him individually for the loss. Neither should you.
Vucinic: 6 - In just 45 minutes, Mirko's only memorable contribution was the through ball to Asamoah for the opening goal. Other than that, nada. We could've used his best in the second half but he limped off with a tight calf at half time.
Caceres: 6 - Alessio was smart to bring him in for the soon-to-be-sent-off Lichtsteiner, but then he was taken off in the second half for Quagliarella. Didn't attack his man on the right and was caught napping by the quick Nagatomo in defense on a couple occasions.
Bendtner: 6 - Played 45 minutes but did nothing of value as well. Saw very few crosses in the box and was mostly played to feet, where he was too slow to make an impact.
Quagliarella: sv -
Conte/Alessio: 5.5 - It may be harsh, but Conte/Alessio got outcoached by Stramaccioni on the day. There's no other way to put it. They decided to stick with their "tried and tested" starting formation and line-up, while Inter switched things up and surprised our Bianconeri. Many have resorted to blaming Alessio for the lack of leadership on the sideline today, but I won't go down that route. Yes, Conte would've been better to have on the bench and we surely do miss him, but this team can and should do more without Conte to build them up at halftime of each game. It's time for new things at Juventus. Maybe a 3-4-3 of our own with Giovinco as a trequartista as has been rumored for a while now? Whatever it is, we'll need a change of pace and mentality going into Wednesday's game.
THINGS I THINK I THINK
On the controversy - I wrote about this extensively in my last match recap so I won't repeat myself, but I've been proud to be a Juventino today in light of all the class I've seen from our fans throughout the interwebs. Yes the first goal was offside but I doubt the ref even had time to check Asamoah's position so early in the game. Tagliavento today was, and this is the nicest I could've put it, absolute shit of a referee. The conversation that referee's mistakes should spark is not one about fixing matches or fabricating calciopoli scandals to hurt each other as teams. It's about the low quality of refereeing in Serie A that is evident day in and day out. There are many instances where referees are human and miss things, and I think we above all understand that. However, the level of calling Serie A games is so low that there are tons of mistakes every game and some fans (heck even some team presidents) need only a few to latch onto and use it as a spark. Thousands of words can be written about the goals Juventus scored in the last 2 games as well as the penalties Inter received in the same time span. It's not about that. While there may be corruption in Italy on some level, I would argue that no one is ducking in tunnels in stadiums or calling referees or paying them bags of money to influence a game one way or another. We need better referees in Serie A, period.
No excuses - This is why I love being a bianconero. When we lose a game on the pitch, we admit it. We don't blame it on referees or quality of the pitch or schedule congestion. Some may do, and they may have arguments to support either one on both sides (Inter's and Juventus'), but mostly it's about looking through all that bullshit and saying yes, Inter beat Juventus on the pitch today. And that actually makes me look forward to the return leg at San Siro even more, cause we are coming! Did you see the fans chanting even after 90 minutes? Did you see the coreagrafia at the start? We'll be ready, and we're coming!
Time for a change - I alluded to this in the beginning so I'll end my game recap with it - this defeat is ultimately good for Juventus. I would've never picked a worse team to lose the streak to than merda, but if it had to happen, I am glad it's happening it now. This team needs to wake up. These players (and coaches) need to take a long look at themselves. Juventus is lacking the pace, grinta, and determination we've set as a standard throughout the last 49 Serie A games. The run we had has been absolutely magnificent and none of us takes that for granted. It's time for another one, a different one, maybe a shorter one but a more holistic one. Get that striker, work harder in training, start defending even better and score more goals. Cause we can do it, we have to do it. This is Juventus ladies and gentlemen, and noi non molliamo mai!