With arguably their two best players back in the fold, Inter Milan had the makings of a team that was going to push forward and have plenty of chances to score a couple of much-needed goals. They had to flip an aggregate scoreline in their favor, knowing full well that Juventus has two valuable away goals in their back pocket entering Tuesday night’s game at Allianz Stadium.
The end result? Juventus’ defense skunked them.
In a game where Juve’s defense needed to rise to the occasion, they did just that.
Because of Juventus’ defense pitching their latest shutout, Andrea Pirlo will now know he will be playing in his second one-off for a trophy in the first few months of 2021. Juventus’ defense bent a few times, but never truly broke as they recorded a scoreless draw against arch-rivals Inter to keep the 2-1 aggregate scoreline after the first leg in Milan last week right where it was and clinch a spot in the Coppa Italia final against either Napoli or Atalanta.
Defense, baby. Defense. A good old-fashioned grit-your-teeth kind of win where Juve’s defense is the reason they get the win (and in this case advance to a cup final).
This is the Juventus I know. And if Juventus’ defense continues to develop and improve like it has over the next few weeks like it has in the last few weeks, then this team will be in pretty good shape.
And you call that Andrea Pirlo can see it becoming more and more of a stable presence simply because he’s relying on it more and more to get results.
It might surprise some to see that inter were kept off the scoreboard in a game when they outshot Juventus 21-12. But then you look down another line and see that Gianluigi Buffon had to make all of three saves, with none of them being all that difficult at all. That means the likes of Merih Demiral and Matthijs de Ligt were absolutely nails in front of their goalkeeper who just so happens to be twice as old as they are.
There were so many blocked shots it was hard to keep track of them at many points.
Even with Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi back, Inter couldn’t break through. Andrea Pirlo, a lot like he did over the weekend against AS Roma, knew his team would have to defend and set things up exactly that way. We’ve talked about Juventus’ ability (or the opposite) to manage games a lot this season, and this was a case of them managing a game about as well as they have all season. Sure, after all of that possession early in the game by Juventus they saw Inter take control of the possession numbers by the end of the game. But, even with all the shots they took, Inter probably had, what, only a couple of truly threatening opportunities.
Buffon was busy in the sense that he had a lot of organizing of the defense in front of him and collecting or punching out of crosses from either wing. But I reiterate that because of the job done in front of him by de Ligt, Demiral and the rest of the team defending in front of him, Juve’s 43-year-old (!!) keeper only had to make THREE saves.
I’ll take a defensive performance like that every single day of the week.
And twice when it comes against Inter and subsequently bounces them from the Coppa Italia.
Roll on, Juventus. You’re playing well right now and I’m just gonna sit here and temper my growing optimism even though I’m always going to be at least somewhat optimistic.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Ten minutes into the game and Juventus had 90 percent possession. Sustainable!
- There was one point in the opening 10 minutes where Juve had completed over 100 passes and Inter had completed ... 11.
- Yet, at one point in the first half, Juventus was being outshot 8-1 despite all of that possession.
- If they gave that penalty to Inter after Federico Bernardeschi made absolutely no contact with Lautaro Martinez in the box ... I don’t want to think about what would happened around here. Lots of angry words, I’m guessing.
- Demiral and de Ligt pretty much just picked up right where Leo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini left off from the win over Roma. That’s a pretty good sign when there’s so many fixtures and rotation needed over the next few weeks.
- Of those 21 shot attempts from Inter, Demiral and de Ligt combined to block nearly half of them all by themselves. That’s pretty damn impressive if you ask me.
- I watched much of this game on the ESPN Deportes feed and if you were to make me take a shot for every time the announcers said something along the lines of “Otra vez Demiral!” then there would be no chance I would be able to finish this sentence.
- Sure, they probably talked for a minute or two after the game, but I would love to see de Ligt’s face the next time he sees Lukaku for the first time. I would love to think that there’s just a sly little grin on de Ligt’s face because he’s probably still a little young and mischievous even though he is wise beyond his young age.
- As much as this was about the defense, Cristiano Ronaldo had more than just a couple of chances to find the back of the net. A few of them, like so many of Inter’s shots, were blocked, but the best two were saved very well by Samir Handanovic. I, personally, would have liked if the up-and-down version of Handanovic showed up Tuesday night, but I guess we got the version of the goalkeeper that is still pretty good. Maybe next time.
- Remember when Juventus lost 2-0 to Inter less than a month ago and the entire season looked absolutely lost? Well, so much for that. The 2020-21 season is very much on.
- Since that loss to Inter, Juventus has won six of their seven games, drawing the other one and allowed all of one goal over that span. I don’t know about you guys, but that’s the kind of ability to bounce back that I wanted to see from my favorite team.
- This will not all be glowing praise for Juventus’ win over Inter in this post. There are still times that Juventus’ players still have really bad turnovers that lead to scoring chances. There were a handful of those in this game. I would like to see Juve cut down on those because that would really take a good amount of pressure on the defense.
- I’m glad Weston McKennie started this game on the bench because my man needed the rest so much.
- If you didn’t have flashbacks to Andrea Barzagli coming on to sure up the defense in the final 10 minutes of a game when Chiellini entered the proceedings in the 82nd second minute, then you must be new here.
- I’m still amazed that Danilo, the same player that we were crucifying for much of last season, has now turned into one of Juve’s best and most consistent players. My goodness.
- Good win. I like when Juventus wins.
- In conclusion: LOL Inter.