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Juventus 2 - Inter Milan 1: Initial reaction and random observations

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Gonzalo Higuain’s Redemption Tour has made its latest stop — and it resulted in another Juve win and more Inter disappointment.

FBL-ITA-SERIEA-INTER-JUVENTUS Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

It’s the 62nd minute and Juventus are in the midst of a rather impressive start to the second half. The Italian champions, tied 1-1 with arch-rival Inter Milan, didn’t have anything to show for it just yet, so first-year manager Maurizio Sarri decided to essentially change the look of his front line. All three subs Sarri made involved the attacking third of the field, a clear indication that the 4-3-1-2 formation was going to stay the same, but the intentions to go for three points in Milan were remaining the same.

Or, in the words of a certain Golden State Warrior who I like to root for, this was Sarri’s chance to “empty the clip.

Sarri brought on Gonzalo Higuain and teamed him with Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala for a 10-minute span. He then took off Dybala and subsequently played Rodrigo Bentancur as a trequartista, an advanced role that he’s never played before in bianconero. All of it while continuing second-half dominance, which was punctuated by Higuain’s game-winning goal with 11 minutes to go in a thrilling 2-1 win over Inter at San Siro on Sunday night.

Yes, that same Higuain who scored midweek in Juve’s Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen. And that same Higuain who knows a little something about scoring late-game goals against Inter and the San Siro that crush the souls of those wearing black and blue.

With how this first derby of the season played out, it was only fitting that a soul-crushing kind of goal happened. It was that wild, that frenzied for much of the 90 minutes and just about everything we expected from a meeting of the two best teams in Serie A at the moment.

But, in Antonio Conte’s first game against the side that he helped resurrect from the Dark Ages, it was the current kings who walked off the field as the league leaders, not the squad that is trying to dethrone them.

It was just that kind of night — and there wasn’t much time at all to even catch your breath after Paulo Dybala opened the scoring with a thunderbolt of a left-footed shot within the first four minutes. You wanted drama, you got the drama. You wanted get individual performances, you got exactly that. You wanted two teams that despise each other to essentially try to beat each other to a pulp for 90-plus minutes, you got that, too.

It was billed as maybe the most competitive derby in years.

It turned out to be just that — and the kind of result that has allowed Juventus to win so many titles before the one it is trying to defend again this season.

This was the measuring stick for both teams — the chance for Sarri’s Juve to show how much progress they have made, and an opportunity for Conte’s Inter to prove that their perfect start to the season isn’t just them beating up on a bunch of lower-table teams.

Thanks to Higuain and his continued rebirth under the manager who helped him set records at Napoli, it was Juventus that was able to prove that the road to the Scudetto still goes through Turin — and it’s not going to change for the time being no matter what kind of punch Inter threw Juve’s way. (No, not the slap in the face that Romelu Lukaku handed to Matthijs de Ligt.)

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS

  • For the record, that game was officiated absolutely terribly. But knowing who the ref was, Gianluca Rocchi, I guess we shouldn’t be all that surprised.
  • Just go ahead inject that Rodrigo Bentancur assist into my veins. That’s just a beautiful thing from a player who shown to be somewhat conservative with his passing in recent years.
  • It will have competition in my veins with Paulo Dybala’s opening goal. My god what a freakin’ hit that was.
  • We’ll have more on this topic in a few days, but Dybala’s future in Turin being in doubt looks to be the thing that has lit a complete fire under his ass. Sure, an attack-minded manager helps a ton, but Dybala with a chip on his shoulder has him looking like the player we know he can be.
  • Man, in-form Paulo Dybala is one of the best things to watch at Juventus. He’s so much fun when he’s clicking like he is right now.
  • And, to those folks who said Dybala can’t play alongside Ronaldo: Ha ha ha.
  • I was one of those who didn’t think Blaise Matuidi fit into Maurizio Sarri’s system. I was wrong. I am happy to be proven wrong. He has been awesome the entire season, and Sunday night’s performance from Matuidi was no different. The man who discussed how tired he was around this time last season because of all the football he had played the previous 12 months has been simply fantastic through the first two months of the new season. Keep doing your thing, Blaise.
  • Miralem Pjanic’s pass on Dybala’s goal ... so good.
  • Miralem Pjanic’s passing for pretty much the entire 2019-20 season so far ... so good.
  • Federico Bernardeschi didn’t do much Sunday night, but his run toward the middle of the 18-yard box allowed Dybala to have the freedom to do what he did on the opening goal. Now if only we could get Bernardeschi to play with some kind of consistency.
  • Speaking of consistency, Matthijs de Ligt played his first bad game in a couple weeks. But, when Juve needed him to buckle down defensively after getting the lead back, he was there and more than capable.
  • Leonardo Bonucci had a couple of rocky moments, but he again had himself a very good game.
  • I love Antonio Conte for all that he did to help Juventus get back to the top of the mountain in Serie A. But, yeah, beating Inter is always going to be good no matter who is managing on the home sideline of the San Siro.
  • Me walking into work today. You know it.