I was sitting around around like all of you at halftime of Sunday night’s Derby d’Italia when my dad called and asked how things were going. I told him about the work trip I just got home from right before kickoff, then he asked how the Juve game was going.
I didn’t really know how to describe it because, again, it was one of those first-half performances where Juventus wasn’t exactly inspiring a whole lot of confidence.
Ah, but that second half, though.
That second half was nice.
And it was that second half in which Juventus got goals from Adrien Rabiot and Nicolo Fagioli that gave Max Allegri his biggest win of the season to date, a 2-0 victory over arch-rival Inter that finally had one of those old-school kinds of feelings again. For as listless and unimpressive the first 45 minutes were for Juventus, the second half was a completely different story. The objective was to hit Inter on the counterattack — and that’s exactly what happened, with Filip Kostic playing his best game in bianconero and being the hub of so many good things that originated from his quality left foot.
The counterattacks hit.
The goals came about because of it.
And Inter, which was just as in need of points as Juve were as this game kicked off, were left to wonder what the heck happened with each scoring chance either missed or saved by Wojciech Szczesny. (Tek was damn good in this game, wasn’t he? Yeah, I think so, too.)
Even after we’re now a good amount of minutes removed from the final whistle, it’s hard to comprehend and explain just how much Juventus needed a win like this against an opponent like Inter. So much of slight uptick in results over the last couple of weeks have always come with a “Yeah, but ...” kind of response from yours truly because I knew that the performance and result against Inter was going to be as important as any heading into the World Cup break. Three straight wins coming into the Derby d’Italia were nice, but if Juve lost against Inter — and they probably should have been down based on the first-half showing — then would those results mean anything as Max Allegri floundered in another big game.
I am pleasantly surprised and happy to tell all of you that said floundering against inter didn’t happen, my friends.
Instead, Juventus came out of the break with a clear plan and played it out about as well as I could have hoped that they would or could have done so.
Whether it was after the goal by Rabiot or the clincher from Fagioli, this team played with a welcomed energy in the second half that we haven’t seen much this season. We’ve seen it in small glimpses over the course of the 2022-23 season, but not many times for an extended period of time like we got Sunday. This is what we were hoping for, not the first-half performance that had you wondering what the heck Allegri was thinking coming off such a positive showing against Paris Saint-Germain a few days earlier.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if Juventus plays with even the slightest bit of positivity and not the risk-averse side we saw in the first half against Inter, then good things can continue to happen.
Take your foot off the brakes a little bit, Max. This team is just asking to play some positive ball.
They showed it against PSG. They showed it again in the second half against Inter. That’s enough for me to bang this drum even more than before. A positive and proactive thinking Juventus is one that can get into the top four — and after Sunday night’s win they’re almost there in the table.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- JUVE UP TO FIFTH???? JUVE UP TO FIFTH!!
- Don’t look now but Juve’s gone over 430 minutes without allowing a goal in Serie A. (If you get mad at me for pointing out a stat that every Italian media outlet is also reporting right as I type this whenever the current streak ends, then you need to be quiet. I am not a jinx.)
- I don’t know what Max Allegri said to his team at halftime. I don’t know what Captain Danilo said to the team at halftime. I don’t know what anybody else said at halftime because I was not there. But the way Juve played in the second half is what this team needs to be like if they want to finish in the top four.
- Adrien Rabiot’s amount of Serie A goals in his first three years with Juventus: 5.
- Adrien Rabiot’s amount of Serie A goals during his fourth year at Juventus that isn’t even half over yet: 5.
- NICOLOOOOOOOOOO FAGIOLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII
- Not a bad game for Nicolo Fagioli to make his first-ever Serie A start in. For a boyhood Juventino to mark a personal milestone like that in the Derby d’Italia ... not bad.
- The above bullet point was typed out during the early parts of the first half.
- I would like to add an addendum: Not a bad game for Nicolo Fagioli to make his first-ever Serie A start and score his first goal at Allianz Stadium in. He was the ball boy celebrating Paulo Dybala’s goal against Inter at the Allianz in March 2020 right before lockdown. On Sunday, he got to celebrate his own goal against Inter.
- Start Fagioli against Hellas Verona and Lazio or else we riot, Max.
- MANUEL LOCATELLI BACK?????????? Makes you think, people.
- Maybe my memory is failing me, but I can’t remember too many times over recent years in which all three of Juve’s defenders in a back three were all of Brazilian nationality.
- I was worried like pretty much everybody that Bremer would have to come off at halftime because of the way he tweaked his knee late in the first half. Instead, Bremer went out and played like Serie A Defender of the Year Bremer in the second half. What a performance.
- Danilo, too, was absolutely immense at the back against Inter. I know Juve’s defensive record has gotten a lot of jokes thrown its way over the last few weeks (and months), but this was the kind of defensive showing that gives you hope that they’ve figured something out back there.
- Like, you know, Bremer being at the center of everything and looking like the player he was at Torino. I think that’s a pretty good start if Juventus want long-term defensive stability.
- You guys will never believe this but Juve didn’t have a shot on goal in the first half.
- Arek Milik had SIX touches in the first half. Only one of those came in the penalty area. Jesus.
- Federico Chiesa coming on to play as a striker is not ideal, but that’s basically what the situation has called for the last two games because there are literally no other strikers available. And while it wasn’t exactly the lively showing as his first game back was midweek, I think I’m OK with Allegri basically telling Chiesa “go raise hell on the counterattack.” Tactically smart, methinks!
- OK, this is where I address the latest instance of VAR basically forcing us to live in a world that is black and white when the call that it is making is not very black and white.
- Danilo scored with his shin, a goal that should have put Juventus up 2-0 a lot earlier than when Nico Fagioli actually put Juventus up 2-0. It was a goal in which the ball hit Danilo’s hand and then crossed the goal line. The only reason that Danilo’s hand was in that position was because Stefan de Vrij had Danilo’s right arm LOCKED in a position in which the Brazilian could do absolutely nothing. And yet, Danilo still scored. So what is Danilo supposed to do there? Yes, it’s the a decision that came down to the letter of the law and technically the correct call, but it’s not like Danilo purposely played ball with his hand or anything close to it. Context matters, but as we know, VAR has no idea what context is.
- Let’s be real — imagine what the reaction would have been like if Juventus was the team that benefited from that call rather than Inter. It would have been completely different and there would have been an absolute outrage in the Italian media on Monday morning.
- Therefore, Filip Kostic had three assists in this game and there’s nothing you can do to tell me otherwise. These are the facts.
- Kostic ... my goodness. That’s the kind of performance Juve clearly had in mind when they signed him this summer. That was a Kostic and Frankfurt kind of performance. I like those.
- Allianz Stadium gave Inter the “OLE!” treatment during stoppage time. It’d been a while since we’ve seen the crowd in Turin in that good of a mood during the final minutes of a big game mainly because Juventus hadn’t been in a winning position in big games lately.