The Derby della Mole no longer holds the prestige that is given to the Derby della Madonnina in Milan, but the intensity of the rivalry has never dropped. Derby week always produces a flood of emotion in Turin, and the atmosphere was even more charged than usual given the fact that Torino entered the game with genuine aspirations of qualifying for Europe. Walter Mazzarri’s squad entered the weekend in qualifying position in sixth place, and wouldn’t give up that position easily.
The game certainly lived up to the fixture’s testy reputation. The two teams combined for 30 fouls — 17 by Torino, 13 by Juventus — and neither side really put anything together in terms of sustained play. Neither keeper was troubled by open play very often, and the match came down to the decisions of referee Marco Guida, who declined to give Torino at least one penalty that they may have deserved but gave Juve a fully deserved spot-kick on the other end that Cristiano Ronaldo converted — and even that was a near thing — to give the Bianconeri a 1-0 victory and keep the Mole black and white for another round.
Massimiliano Allegri came into the game in a bit of a bind from a selection standpoint. Rodrigo Bentancur was suspended due to yellow card accumulation and Sami Khedira remained sidelined with a leg injury, leaving him (again) with only three healthy midfielders. A brand new injury to Joao Cancelo also forced Mattia De Sciglio into the starting lineup, where he’ll likely be for the next six weeks or so. De Sciglio joined Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, and Alex Sandro in defense in front of Mattia Perin, who made a surprise start in relief of Wojciech Szczesny. Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi were joined in the midfield by Emre Can, who made his third appearance since his return from thyroid surgery and his first start since September. Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala, and Ronaldo rounded out the attack.
Mazzarri’s lineup had a pair of former Juventus players in his familiar 3-5-2. Salvatore Sirigu took his place between the sticks behind a back three of Nicolas Nkoulou, Armando Izzo, and Koffi Djidji. Daniele Baselli, Soualiho Meite, and Tomas Rincon formed the midfield with wingbacks Ola Aina and Cristian Ansaldi. Andrea Belotti joined Simone Zaza, the man who helped complete the 2015-16 comeback, as the strike pair.
The first phase of the game set the tone for just how testy an affair this would be. Dybala in particular was subjected to some physical abuse, and neither team really managed to break out of midfield to do anything in attack. The first real opportunity to test a goalkeeper came in the eighth minute when Ronaldo earned a free kick on the left wing. He stood over the ball with Pjanic, who quickly tapped the ball to him for a long shot, but he mishit it so badly that it went out of bounds for a throw in on the right side.
Two minutes later came an incident that would eventually come to define the game. It came on a Juventus corner kick. Can and Sirigu both went up for the ball and collided hard. Can was whistled for a foul, and the Italy international hit the deck and stayed there for quite some time, his hip clearly in a great deal of discomfort. He remained in the game, and five minutes later he got down to make a fantastic one-handed save on a Ronaldo volley that seemed destined for the back of the net. In doing so, though, he landed on the same hip and again Torino’s training staff had to come out to attend to him. He could be seen vigorously insisting that he wanted to stay in the game, but after play restarted again he finally crumpled to the turf on his own, and Salvador Ichazo took his place.
The rest of the first half saw a lot of Torino pressing and a lot of Juventus losing possession with loose passes and ill-advised dribble attempts. Guida was having an uneven game, declining to whistle for a foul when Dybala was wrestled to the ground but giving Torino a free kick seconds later for far less contact. That free kick produced one of the most dangerous moments of the game for the Granata, as Belotti headed the ball back across the goal mouth and Perin pawed it into the ground right in front of Izzo, who wasn’t able to capitalize before Juve managed to scramble it clear.
There wasn’t a whole lot more action in the first period aside from Chiellini attempting a back-heel volley off a corner that Ichazo saved. They nearly started the second with a bang, with a good passing sequence seeing Ronaldo release Dybala. He laid it off for Matuidi, but the Frenchman mishit it.
Torino then ramped up the pressure again, and for the first 15 minutes or so of the second half again had the upper hand. Torino had a pair of penalty shouts about 10 minutes into the period, the first on a corner when Matuidi put a hand on Belotti’s hip while he went up to head a corner kick, and the second, much more substantive one when Zaza chested a ball down but was then hauled backwards by Sandro. To be frank, the argument for a penalty here was a pretty good one — it may have been more of a foul than the one Sandro was called for on Wednesday against Young Boys. But Guida waved play on, and no one in the VAR booth rang down for him to check the incident. The ball went the other way and Matuidi nearly squirmed through traffic to tip in a ground cross from Sandro, but Ichazo made a good stop from point-blank range.
Torino continued to hold the advantage in possession thanks to their press, and as the game approached the 70-minute mark one would have been forgiven for wondering why Allegri hadn’t made any changes. That’s when a big mistake from an old friend gave Juve the lead.
The culprit, from the Torino perspective, was Zaza. The forward had done well to press Bonucci out of possession, but the defender chased his former teammate all the way back to the top of the penalty area and forced him into a bad back pass. Mandzukic pounced on errant effort, and Ichazo came sliding in late and hacked the big striker down. The keeper didn’t even argue, and after Mandzukic recovered Ronaldo stepped to the spot and fired low to the shooter’s right. Ichazo got his hand to the ball, but couldn’t keep it out, and Ronaldo started a bit of a fracas, and earned himself a yellow card, for getting into the keeper’s face in the aftermath.
Ronaldo may have given them the lead, but he kept Juve from doubling it only three minutes later, when he was caught offside when he flicked a free kick to the back post for Mandzukic to smack into the goal.
After that, the chances died down on both sides.
Torino seemed to have finally run themselves out after pressing so heavily for so long, and Juve started putting together some good stretches of possession to bleed the time off the clock. The Granata only managed one shot in the aftermath of the goal, even with the benefit of a tad more stoppage time than the minimum of four added on after Perin was booked for time wasting. When Guida blew his whistle, the points, and the bragging rights, stayed in the black and white side of Turin.
MATTIA PERIN - 5.5. This was only Perin’s third game, and it showed in his play. He looked indecisive and made some bad decisions about when to come out. He nearly gifted Izzo a goal when he punched Belotti’s header right to him. He’s an uber-talented player, but he won’t be getting a lot of the time to show it.
MATTIA DE SCIGLIO - 7. Didn’t let a single thing get past him. The right flank is going to be more than secure in Cancelo’s absence.
LEONARDO BONUCCI - 6. Avoided the huge errors that have often plagued his game. Let Izzo get a shot in on a corner in the second half, but made enough of a nuisance of himself to make the shot difficult.
GIORGIO CHIELLINI - 7. Led the team with six clearances and generally kept the back end locked down.
ALEX SANDRO - 6.5. Led the team in tackles and provided three key passes, but also made a couple of sloppy plays and really could have hurt the team with that challenge on Zaza. Needs to pull a full game together.
EMRE CAN - 6. At times looked like a guy who’s only played 33 minutes since the beginning of October. Led the team in interceptions, but also committed five of the team’s 13 fouls. He just needs to get the minutes back in his legs.
MIRALEM PJANIC - 6. Made a couple of key passes but really didn’t deal well with the Torino press and wasn’t able to dictate for the game. He could probably use an extended rest, but there’s just no way to get him that right now.
BLAISE MATUIDI - 6. Oh, what could have been in front of goal. Did do a very good job going after the ball in midfield and blocked a pair of shots as well.
PAULO DYBALA - 6. Got hacked to death but still led the team with three key passes. He was in a couple of good positions to score but wasn’t fed the ball.
MARIO MANDZUKIC - 6. As always, was all over the field to help out defending or up top. Didn’t get an official shot but was alert to Zaza’s bad pass to draw the penalty.
CRISTIANO RONALDO - 6. Decided the game with his penalty, but he was otherwise a little selfish, declining to pass the ball to teammates in better positions on several occasions, and he needs to pay attention to where the last defender is, because he’s gotten goals chalked off twice this week.
I know that the bench is a little short right now, but Allegri waited far too long to make a move in this game. It ended up OK in the end, but that can’t insulate Allegri from criticism in this area. Torino had the better of this game pretty much up until Ichazo took Mandzukic down, and Allegri could have — and should have, in my opinion—made a substitution before that point. This game was crying out for Douglas Costa, whose technique and speed could have easily broken Torino’s press and maybe brought the breakthrough a little sooner.
After the goal I can see why decided not to actually make a sub — there weren’t many people on the bench who he could introduce that would make the team more solid defensively. He could, however, have maybe let a forward rest his legs for a bit. Allegri was a lot more proactive with his subs last year, and I’m not a fan of how that’s regressed this season. The next time he may not be so lucky in how things turn out.
It’s a rare full week off for Juve before Roma take a trip to the Allianz Stadium. After that, the Old Lady travels to Bergamo for a clash with European hopefuls Atalanta.