Roberto Mancini said it right – it was tough.
A tough game, but at the same time, a game with two different Juventus teams on either side of the break. Almost lamentable during the first 45 minutes when only the supremacy of Andrea Barzagli keeping the Old Lady out of trouble; and then more spirited, driven forward by an inexhaustible Juan Cuadrado, whose unfailing efforts down the right flank only lacked a touch of accuracy.
Unfortunately, though, his continuous presence to the forefront of the game was the effect of a flaw within the team. The trio Sami Khedira, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba didn’t work. The long-awaited midfield everybody expected to move mountains after its conception in the summer was little more than a heavy anchor in certain parts of the game, lacking cohesion and switching off altogether at times. Hard to tell if it was down to the lack of time spent together on the field or just a matter of circumstance, having to put up with the aggressive style of Felipe Melo and Gary Medel.
No point going over Paolo Valeri’s mistakes. It is all part of football and so are the mistakes in front of goal. Khedira is not the kind of player who fails to put the ball into the net from that position. And part of football are tactics and strategies as well.
As the game kicked off thoughts were still battling in the head trying to decide whether or not Max Allegri was actually playing 4-3-3. Logic was really insisting with the 3-5-2 formation; but eyes were telling something else. 3-5-2? 4-3-3? Perhaps both. Regardless, Barzagli and Cuadrado functioned as if they have been playing together for a lifetime. A shame it couldn’t leave a mark on the scoreline.
Speaking of which, it was only the second 0-0 in 80 Serie A games this season, after Carpi and Napoli played out the first one. Not really what was expected from Derby d’Italia in terms of spectacle and entertainment but giving the contrasting displays of Juventus, it was probably the right result.
Second half of the table and nine points away from leaders Fiorentina, but bossing the stage in Champions League. Life as a juventino is gorgeous.
The first chance of the game felt to Cuadrado inside four minutes as the Colombian was found with a good pass by Alvaro Morata but his shot at the near post was saved by Samir Handanovic who conceded a corner kick for the home side.
Three yellow cards in five minutes from referee Valeri managed to calm down the spirits a bit. Marchisio was the first to see yellow after stopping a dangerous counter attack through foul, before former Juventus midfielder Melo received his first warning. Just moments later, Khedira brought Stevan Jovetic to the ground and forced Valeri to show a third card.
Jovetic stepped up to take the resulting free-kick but his shot was never going to trouble Gianluigi Buffon. Only a few minutes passed before Simone Zaza challenged Melo for a ball with a kung-fu style kick and, most surprisingly, received a yellow card.
// writer’s note: it was a 4-3-3, though, nobody seemed to be playing wide left, with both Morata and Zaza constantly in the middle of the attack //
In the 26th minute, Giorgio Chiellini slid in brilliantly to block Jovetic’s shot inside the 6-yard-box, after Leonardo Bonucci was caught advanced outside his position.
As pressure started to mount up at Juventus’ goal, Marcelo Brozovic curled a shot out of nowhere that flew past a full-stretched Buffon and bounced off the crossbar, drawing a long simultaneous sigh from the home supporters.
Inter came close again 35 minutes in as Jovetic sent a dangerous low cross from a set-piece but no player connected with the ball. Appeals for a red card were heard from Juventus supporters as Melo’s tackle on Khedira was nowhere near the ball, but Valeri didn’t even award a free kick.
// second writer note: I might have decided on a 3-5-2 in the end //
Three minutes before the break, Barzagli made up ground in astonishing manner to stop Mauro Icardi who was poised to face Buffon from an on-to-one situation. A penalty appeal from the Argentine striker was waved off without second thoughts by the referee.
Juventus shyly approached Handanovic’s goal as Zaza was blocked inside the box and won a corner kick, but nothing came out of it and the whistle signalling the end of a bleak first half was sweet music to the ears. A lot of intensity, but very little goal action.
// Down to the 4-3-3 formation, perhaps?
Juventus came strongly into the second half but squandered another chance. Zaza did some good work to win a ball back in midfield before Morata played Cuadrado inside the box, only for the winger to see his shot deflected behind for a corner kick by Handanovic.
Jovetic forced Buffon into making a save in the 59th minute and despite his attempt being centred, the ball bounced off the ground just before the veteran goalkeeper got a palm on it and it took one more touch for Juventus’ captain to safely hold the ball.
Ten minutes later, Khedira missed the biggest chance of the game. Morata did brilliantly to protect a ball with his back at the goal and then to set up the German who was unmarked inside the area but he only managed to hit the post, drawing no reaction from Handanovic.
Juventus were more present in attack in the last part of the game but their long possession spells rarely troubled the home side defence. Inter had a couple of good chances from set-pieces just outside the box, but first Jovetic and then Perisic failed to hit the target.
Three minutes from time, Cuadrado delivered a good cross for Mario Mandzukic who was lurking at the far post but the Croatian misjudged the ball’s trajectory and his poor attempt was cleared.
Chiellini put a smile on everyone’s face a few moments later, as he tried to redirect Bonucci’s cross with an over-head kick which failed, unsurprisingly.
The final whistle came after three minutes of extra time announcing what everyone knew by the time Khedira hit the post: a biscotto.
// third writer note: not using the M word was harder than I thought it would be when it came to naming Internazionale Milano //
Buffon: 6 - A couple of routine saves, but a quiet day at the office otherwise
Barzagli: 8 - Imperious defending throughout the game. Man of the match.
Bonucci: 6 - Miss-positioned himself at times but great in the air and an improved performance in the second half, in correspondence with the team’s
Chiellini: 6 - Better than before the international break. Four minutes away from a Derby d’Italia without a booking
Cuadrado: 7.5 - Devastating again on his right-flank, leading every single attack. A pity he was ineffective with his last pass or finishing
Khedira: 6.5 - Classy display – in the second half – but a terrible miss that had cost Juventus the three points
Marchisio: 6 - Thwarted by having to cover a lot at the back and struggled a bit in the centre of the park – expected, considering the long period spent away from the pitch
Pogba: 5.5 - Inexistent in the first half. A bit livelier in the second, but helped his team with little end product
Evra: 6 - Not very involved in the action but kept sharp whenever needed. Attacking contribution limited due to the presence of Mauro Icardi
Zaza: 5.5 - Aggressive as always. Either hesitant or too impatient at times. Wasted a good opportunity in the first half
Morata: 6.5 - Created a couple of good chances for Cuadrado and Khedira, but couldn’t get anywhere close to scoring himself
Mandzukic: 6 - Replaced Morata in the 71st minute. Missed a decent opportunity
Dybala: s/v - Came in for Zaza with just over 10 minutes left to play.
Allegri: 6 - Raised a few eyebrows with his decision of playing Zaza from the start. Was finally able to field his best midfield of three men, although it was hardly to be seen on the pitch. Managed to wake the team up during half time
// final writer note: I do apologise for the SCRAMBLE CHANNEL notes which kept showing up in the first half, but I really wanted somebody else sharing my frustration with Sky Calcio, be it only when reading the report //