New Year, same story.
Juventus’ players must have some kind of freak competition of who will miss more chances in the space of 45 minutes — the first 45 minutes, if possible — and for some reasons, only Carlos Tévez is not allowed to play this game. Maybe the Apache played this game for too long in Champions League and he got enough of it. Wonder what will make the others remember they are actually paid for scoring goals.
The first fixture of the year was a festive one, from a couple of points of view. Firstly, it was the Derby D’Italia against Inter Milan and secondly ... well, it was the first fixture of the year, isn’t that enough? It would have been a nice start of 2015 had Juventus won the three points, especially after Roma joined the Old Lady at the top of the table following their success over Udinese. It wasn’t to be though and now Juventus have won only one of their last six games in all competition — hardly the record to think of when a trip to the root of Mount Vesuvius is next on the cards.
There were no surprises again in Max Allegri’s starting XI and one may discuss whether it was a good thing or not. Creating chances against stubborn defences has usually been the biggest problem of the side in the past few months, but any changes to try and improve this were few and far between, with the exception of switching formation from 3-5-2 to 4-3-1-2 some time ago. Inter’s defence in the game could be called many things, but it was far from being called stubborn. The rate at which chances were missed, however, was closer to appalling more than anything else.
Playing the squad’s best four midfielders at the same time might give you a huge boost in quality but at the same time, no chance to throw in a strong backup if things don’t go as planned — as was the case for this game in the second half, which saw the bianconeri literally collapsing at times. And considering the list of fixtures awaiting Juventus in the coming month — seven (7!) games including this one in the space of 30 days — one may want to rest a key player or two now and then, just to make sure everyone is firing on all cylinders when needed.
The slow, slow build-up Juventus used to show in the past seemed to have registered a dramatically improvement. One-touch passes in quick succession outside Inter’s box were more than occasionally in the first half. Like any wonder though, it didn’t last much and the attacking moves in the second half were a rarity, the sloppy play slowly taking over the game. If only Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio had taken advantage of their chances...
There is no denying Fernando Llorente finally produced some good link-up play, creating spaces for his teammates, while Vidal was back to his old best, even in this unusual position as a trequartista. But it is a bit baffling it only happened in the first half and, with the risk of pointing out the obvious, this is not enough to win you a game. It is said truly good managers are seen at half time and when making substitutions — there was no sign of Allegri at neither of those, unfortunately.
And yes, it is easy to point out from here and hard to say what’s on Allegri’s mind but when looking at alternatives on the bench — Alvaro Morata, that little fella who used to play for Juventus Sebastian Giovinco, Kinglsey Coman, or even the much-praised-but-highly-ineffective-so-far Roberto Pereyra — you might wonder why is Allegri sticking with Fernando Llorente upfront, or with Arturo Vidal out of his best position. Whatever he chooses to do next, he better be doing it good – can’t see any Juventini accepting anything but revenge from Sunday’s game against Napoli.
After just one minute of play, Tévez found Marchisio in a great position inside Inter’s box but his left-footed shot flew just wide of Samir Handanovic’s goal. The response came seconds later when Freddy Guarin tried his luck from distance but failed to hit the target.
Juventus built on that strong start, keeping up the pace and it paid off for them after just over four minutes of football. Vidal received a ball from Llorente in the box and produced some fantastic piece of skill to beat his compatriot Guy Medel and lay the ball in front of the goal for Tévez to easily pop it in. It was Tévez’s first career goal against Inter, who shut up his critics pointing this out before the game.
Twelve minutes on, a corner taken by Pirlo was poorly cleared away by the defence and the ball felt at Vidal’s feet, whose shot was heading to the bottom corner only to be deflected by Danilo D’Ambrosio and then tipped over the bar by Handanovic.
Bonucci made a good clearance just before the 20-minute mark as D’Ambrosio found space down the left side and tried to play Icardi inside the box, a pass that would’ve certainly caused troubles to Buffon had it reached its target.
The first half an hour of the game had gone at an astonishing pace, with Juventus attacking at an uncharacteristic high speed, while Inter was forced to sit back and try to hit on the counter. Vidal forced Handanovic into his first important save of the evening, as his shot from distanced bounced right in front of the keeper who pushed it away for a corner.
Juventus held the lines up, as Pogba, Marchisio and Vidal were always pressing the opposition, allowing Inter no possession at all. Vidal tested Handanovic once again from the edge of the box after 32 minutes, but the goalkeeper dived to his left to claim the ball.
Shortly afterwards, Pogba got a ball at the edge of the opposite area and produced some sublime skills to literally crochet through Inter’s defence but then only managed to place his shot straight at the Slovenian keeper on an one-on-one situation. It would’ve been a certain candidate for the goal of the season.
The early goal from Tévez was key in the confident, dominant display of the home side who produced an almost flawless defending in the first half, as Inter couldn’t create anything dangerous for Buffon’s goal.
Second half started much in the same fashion, with Juventus pushing high up the field, forcing mistakes from Inter’s midfielders.
Lukas Podolski replaced Zdravko Kuzmanovic on 54 minutes to make his debut for Inter and was instantly involved in an attacking move alongside D’Ambrosio but Chiellini and Marchisio managed to block the duo and clear away the danger.
Five minutes later, Llorente was carelessly brought down in the box by Juan Jesus but referee Luca Banti waved play on despite vociferous protests from Juventus’ supporters. It was the last action of the game for Llorente who was replaced after 63 minutes by his compatriot Morata, in what became already a usual substitution from Allegri.
Inter equalised in the 64th minute with their first shot on target after Icardi made a great run to get at the end of a through ball played by Guarin, losing Bonucci on the way, and then producing a neat finish to beat Buffon who stood no chance. It came as a sort of a punishment for Juventus who should have finished off at least one more of their good first half chances.
Shortly after the goal, players of both teams lost their tempers for a few moments after Morata was brought down outside Inter’s box by Andrea Ranocchia who was booked by referee Banti. Pirlo stepped-up for the free-kick but Handanovic, who had already taken a step to his near post, managed to recover and produced a fantastic save to clear the ball for a corner.
Twenty minutes from time, Morata found space down the left flank and got past Hugo Campagnaro, but then hit the ground rather easily and the referee harshly showed him the yellow card for what he considered to be a dive.
Five minutes later, following a Pirlo corner-kick, Pogba’s header from around the penalty spot went just wide of Handanovic’s goal. Just after that, Allegri tried to inject some extra pace in his side, replacing Vidal with Pereyra.
Juventus’ defence looked all over the place as the game entered in its final 10 minutes. Bonucci stupidly lost possession in midfield, allowing Podolski to break free on the left flank and the German fed Icardi who was lurking inside the box but the goalscorer somehow didn’t manage to tap the ball in. The same Icardi struck a ball with real venom just moments later but Buffon was up for the save on that occasion, pushing the ball over the post.
A mistake from Chiellini offered Icardi and the newly introduced Pablo Osvaldo a great scoring opportunity, but the Argentine chose not to pass the ball to Osvaldo, much for the anger of the naturalised Italian, and instead went for the goal, but his effort was off target.
It was a frantic end to the game which saw Kovacic receiving a straight red after launching in a sliding tackle on Lichtsteiner with his foot high. In the injury time, Juventus pushed for a winner but it was Buffon who had to come off his line all the way to the centre of the field to clear away a ball chased by a lonely Podolski.
A late scramble in Inter’s box saw Pogba and Evra desperately trying to get a shot in, with Handanovic eventually palming the ball clear, just moments before Luca Banti blew the final whistle to a spectacular game.
Buffon: 6.5 After an idle first half, was forced into pulling some good saves in the second part. Cannot be blamed for the goal
Lichtsteiner: 5.5 Lost D’Ambrosio on an early occasion in the game and then had problems keeping Podolski quiet. Not the best of game from him, as pretty much all Inter’s chances came from his side
Bonucci: 5 Had a horrible second half performance, allowing Icardi to get first at the ball and eventually score. Also easily gave away possession in a couple of situations
Chiellini: 6.5 A decent, steady performance until late in the game, when all the defenders looked very shaky. Cleared pretty much every ball he had to deal with in the first 70 minutes.
Evra: 6 Inter seemed to attack more on their left flank, not giving the Frenchman too much to do defensively, but he couldn’t bring his contribution to attack either.
Marchisio: 7 Great first half and a more than decent second bit from Il Principino, who was the most industrious of the midfielders, making a handful of interceptions and keeping his cool while on the ball. Missed a good chance in the first minute of the game.
Pirlo: 6.5 Played a lot right between the two centre backs, acting more like a sweeper. Was constantly on the move to find open space, but couldn’t really make any of his trademark passes.
Pogba: 7 A few mistakes early on but then produced a splendid performance, imposing himself in midfield. Could be at fault for not closing down and allowing Guarin too much time to find the perfect assist for Icardi. Was unlucky not to finish his terrific individual action with a goal in the first half
Vidal: 7 Tremendous first half performance, but for some reasons couldn’t replicate it in the second part of the game. Had a couple of good shots from distance and produced some magnificent skills to provide the assist for Tévez
Tévez: 7 Proved once again he knows how to be in the right place at the right time, giving Juve the lead early on. Despite some good movement upfield, he couldn’t do enough to get a second for the team
Llorente: 6.5 Played an important part in the build-up for the goal and was more comfortably with the ball at his feet, holding off opposition and creating spaces for teammates.
Morata: 6 Despite having almost 30 minutes at his disposal, the Spaniard made no impact after he replaced Llorente, being also booked for a presumed dive.
Pereyra: 6 Came in with 12 minutes left to play but didn’t bring the expected pace in attacks
Allegri: 6 Couldn’t mount his players to react after being equalised and was more than lucky on a couple of occasions to not go behind. Substitutions made improved nothing in the game and the collapse of the team in the second half is still a mystery at this time.
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