Over the last decade or so, the Derby della Mole has tended toward two modes. Either Juventus would run away with victory over Torino, or the two neighbors would play an ornery and cagey affair that would leave the result until late, often with Juve breaking Toro hearts with late goals.
Tuesday’s Derby was neither of those things.
Perhaps thanks to Torino’s stunning opener 90 seconds in, this match was an enthralling contest. That goal put the spurs to the action, and the result was a game far more open than most of the Derbies we’ve seen in the past. Twice in the first half Torino took the lead, only for Juve to quickly strike back to send the game into the break tied 2-2.
Both teams rattled the crossbar in the second period, and when Karol Linetty’s absurd curler bounced off the woodwork with just over 20 minutes to go, it looked like the closest the Granata were the closest they’d been to winning this fixture in eight years.
But by game’s end, the superior quality of Juve’s roster started to tell. With key players coming back into the squad, Massimiliano Allegri had more ways to change the game than Ivan Juric did. That quality spoke almost immediately upon being introduced, when Federico Chiesa found Bremer after a short corner to give Juve their first lead with less than 20 minutes left. Another goal followed 10 minutes later to confirm Juve’s first come-from-behind victory of the entire season, 4-2.
It was the best the fixture has been in many years, and the victory catapulted Juve back up to seventh place, ahead of Bologna on goal difference. It left them only six points behind Atalanta for a spot in the Europa Conference League, with Juve’s now-official appeal of their 15-point penalty pending. It’s a position not a lot of us expected to be in so soon after the crapful month that was January, but all in all it feels right in line with the Chutes and Ladders feel that this season has had.
Allegri gained two key returnees for the clash. The first was Chiesa, who had missed two games with muscle fatigue as he works his way back to full bore following his knee injury. The other was Paul Pogba, who took a place on the bench for only the second time this season after
completely mismanaging battling his own knee problems for the entire season. Allegri was still missing Arkadiusz Milik, Fabio Miretti, and Kaio Jorge due to injury, while Manuel Locatelli sat out thanks to a yellow card suspension.
After dabbling with returning to a 4-3-3 in recent days, Allegri firmly returned to the 3-5-1-1. Wojciech Szczesny started in goal, making his 200th appearance for the club. Alex Sandro also had a milestone, marking a full 300 caps in black and white. He joined Bremer and Danilo in the back three. Juan Cuadrado and Filip Kostic were deployed as wing-backs. Midfield was a problem for the Juve manager. With Locatelli and Miretti unavailable and Pogba nowhere close to fit for starting work, it was assumed Leandro Paredes would play in Locatelli’s place. Instead, Allegri pulled the surprise choice of the season when he called up Enzo Barrenechea from the NextGen and installed him in front of defense with Nicolo Fagioli and Adrien Rabiot. Angel Di Maria floated in the hole behind Dusan Vlahovic.
Juric had a long injury list to deal with, severely limiting his options coming in. Nikola Vlasic, David Zima, Pietro Pellegri, Ronaldo Vieira, and Valentino Lazaro were all on the training table. Juric sent out a 3-4-2-1 in front of goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic. Alessandro Buorngiorno, Perr Schuurs, and Koffi Djidji made up the defensive line, while Wilfred Singo and Ricardo Rodriguez patrolled the wings. Karol Linetty and Ivan Ilic were employed in the double pivot, while Yann Karamoh and Aleksey Miranchuk supported Antonio Sanabria in attack.
The game was turned on its head in a minute and a half. Singo’s pace forced Sandro to chase him down and put the ball behind. Juve’s zonal marking on the subsequent corner failed comically. Neither Singo nor Buongiorno were picked up at all, and the latter glanced a header right into Karamoh’s. lap. The Frenchman instantly turned and slotted into the net, having been kept onside by Vlahovic.
It was the kind of blow that Juventus hadn’t recovered from this season. They hadn’t won a game all season when they had conceded the first goal, the horrific officiating mistake against Salernitana notwithstanding. Allegri’s tactics don’t lend themselves to playing from behind, and he had yet to show a viable Plan B to get the team back into a winning position.
There weren’t any immediate signs that that would be any different on this night. Five minutes after going behind, the Bianconeri still looked to be playing like they were the ones leading by one, not trailing by one. Soon, though, there were some glimmers, which started when Juve began focusing their attacks on the left side. Kostic was sent down the wing with long balls several times, each time getting closer and closer to creating some real danger. Di Maria put Juve’s first shot of the match over in the 13th minute, but they were building some pressure, and three minutes later they struck home.
It started with Kostic, who slipped in behind Singo to receive a pass, then turned his opposite number around to get room to cross. His ball eluded both Vlahovic and Rabiot by a fraction, but bounced all the way through to Cuadrado. The Colombian has had immense success in the Derby della Mole, coming in with two goals and eight assists to his name against the Granata, including some of the fixture’s biggest moments of the last decade. His intention as he approached the ball seemed to be to try to beat Milinkovic-Savic with power at the near post, but an ill-advised attempt by Rodriguez to block him only served to deflect the ball up and over the big keeper’s other shoulder. Shuurs tried desperately to head it over, but it only skipped off and into the roof of the net for Cuadrado’s third, and likely last, goal in the Derby della Mole.
Both teams spent the next 15 minutes or so jockeying in midfield, trying to set up their attackers for runs but not quite making them work. Torino continued to hold the lion’s share of possession, while Juve tried to hit on the run. In the 31st minute there was finally some action again, first with a long-range effort from Vlahovic that his countryman could only fumble with, but there were no teammates nearby to take advantage. Then in the 40th minute Szczesny made an incredible flying save on a Sanabria header that was headed to the top corner.
Three minutes later, though, he looked far less glorious. To be fair, so did a couple of people, particularly Bremer, who was ball-watching and lost track of Sanabria, who jumped in front of him to slot a cross from Ilic in to put Torino back in front, although Szczesny probably should’ve done better at his near post.
It looked to be a cruel way to go into the half, but after a pass from Di Maria to Rabiot forced Djidji to put the ball behind for Juve’s first corner of the match, balance was restored. Di Maria’s ball in found an excellent run by Danilo, who rose over Karamoh and hit a powerful header toward the far post. The ball bounced off the inside of the post and back to the goal. Milinkovic-Savic tried desperately to claw it away, but for the third time in three weeks goal-line technology came benefitted Juve, and referee Daniele Chiffi quite rightly awarded the tying goal in the first minute of stoppage time.
Both teams traded early chances in the second half. Miranchuk curled the ball just wide just three minutes into the period before Vlahovic played a one-two with Fagioli after a long ball from Sandro. Fagioli’s pass nutmegged two defenders and put Vlahovic one-on-one with Milinkovic-Savic, but the big striker’s effort to get over the onrushing keeper sent the ball just too high and it crashed into the crossbar.
Possession was far more even than it had been in the first half, and Juve started racking up a few chances. Vlahovic went over with a difficult header in the 57th minute, and Cuadrado had the opportunity for a second just after the hour mark but pulled it wide. Singo did the same for Torino a few minutes later, then Linetty nearly stole the headlines when he intercepted a pass from Sandro, continued his run, and ran on to a neat back-heel from Miranchuk to hit a beautiful first-time curler that beat Szczesny only to whack the crossbar.
To this point, Allegri had been keeping his cards in his hand, but now he played his two highest ones. Indeed, Chiesa and Pogba were both stripped off and waiting when Linetty hit the bar, but the two came on as part of a triple sub just after the scare.
Results came almost immediately.
Two of the three subs were involved in the go-ahead goal. It was Mattia De Sciglio who earned the corner kick that Di Maria played short to Chiesa, whose cross was met by a completely unmarked Bremer to head the ball to the far post and in. At long last, Juve had the lead.
Juric immediately responded with a triple sub of his own, including yanking off Nemanja Radonjic only 15 minutes after putting him in as a sub, furious at his inaction on the corner. But it had little effect in getting Torino closer to an equalizer, while at the other end a defensive header fell at the feet of Pogba, who launched a shot that was blocked at the last minute by Singo. Two minutes later, Kostic dropped an excellent free kick into the box, where it glanced off Bremer before Rabiot bundled the ball in with his knee. Chiffi spent a good three minutes listening to his headset while VAR official Aleandro Di Paolo checked multiple potential offside calls, but they all came back clean, giving Juve the dagger that Torino had failed to find themselves early.
Torino spent the last 10 minutes plus stoppages trying to set up a grandstand finish, but the closest either team came was a free kick from Chiesa deep into added time that Milinkovic-Savic pushed around the post. When Chiffi sounded the final whistle, Juve officially laid claim to the most entertaining Derby Turin had seen in many years.
WOJCIECH SZCZESNY - 6. This could have been higher, as the quality of the save he made on Sanabria’s header was high indeed. But he really ought to have done better on Torino’s second goal, which drags this back down to an overall average day.
DANILO - 7. The header for his goal was excellent, and he was his usual, steady self in defense, tallying two tackles and three clearances. He has become this team’s unquestioned leader.
BREMER - 6. Evened out his really bad mistake on Sanabria’s goal with his headed winner, plus he got credit for the assist on the final goal, having gotten the last touch on the free kick before Rabiot finished. Still, errors like that have crept into his game since the World Cup, and he’ll have to get those under control.
ALEX SANDRO - 5.5. Made a team-high five clearances but made some seriously bad giveaways out of the back, including the pass that led to Linetty’s near miss.
JUAN CUADRADO - 6.5. A well-taken goal to potentially cap off his exemplary sub-career of beating the tar out of Torino in this rivalry. Solid enough the rest of the game, although his lack of burst taking defenders on is becoming more and more clear.
NICOLO FAGIOLI - 6. A little rough in the first half before a much better second, which even Allegri himself pointed out. Not sure why he didn’t get credited with a key pass for supplying Vlahovic’s crossbar shot, but the pass was wonderful. His slow start was probably to due with his inexperience in playing a full European schedule.
ENZO BARRENECHEA - 6. More than held his own playing his first career start in the Derby. He led the team with five tackles and threw in a key pass. A little scattershot with his distribution, but that improved as he found his footing. We may have another really good midfield prospect from the NextGen on our hands.
ADRIEN RABIOT - 6.5. Was in and out of the game at times, but he was there when he needed to be, and was in the right place at the right time on the goal and threw his weight around on defense.
FILIP KOSTIC - 7. The main attacking conduit of the team for the entire match. His crosses came in thick and fast, completing five of eight. He finished the day with four key passes, the assist for Cuadrado’s equalizer, and the hockey assist on the final goal of the night with an excellent free kick. When he’s on, the forwards become far more dangerous.
ANGEL DI MARIA - 6. Made three key passes but wasn’t in his absolute best flow the way he was in France. Perhaps a little tired after the Thursday game.
DUSAN VLAHOVIC - 6. Only hit the target with one shot and really should have scored when he hit the crossbar, but his holdup play was good all night, which was good to see because that hasn’t been a consistent part of his game. If that starts to evolve, it could be a critical part of his ability to succeed in an Allegri system.
FEDERICO CHIESA - 7. A perfect cross for the winner, and he never stopped going. Even up two in stoppage time he was trying to beat his opponents on the dribble.
PAUL POGBA - 6. I was honestly shocked that he came on as early as he did — I wasn’t expecting him earlier than the 80th minute. He obviously had a lot of rust to knock off, although had Singo been a little later on that shot at the end of the game the walls might’ve been blown out by the cheers. Now he has to stay healthy and start turning in the performances we thought we were getting.
MATTIA DE SCIGLIO - 6. Defended well and earned the corner that produced the winner.
MOISE KEAN - NR. Gave Vlahovic a rest with the game in hand.
LEONARDO BONUCCI - NR. His curious set of cameos continues.
I don’t often offer unequivocal commendation to Max Allegri, but I’m going to do it here for his decision to trust Barrenechea with the start instead of forcing it with Leandro Paredes, who has done absolutely nothing to prove himself worthy of minutes. Barrenechea was up to the challenge and turned in a better game than anything Paredes has done this year. Perhaps Allegri is starting to realize that experience isn’t everything. Now the hope is players like Nicolo Rovella and Andrea Cambiaso come back from their loans in the summer and get similar opportunities.
As the second half went on, it was pretty clearly screaming for Chiesa to come on, and I was a little surprised he wasn’t on earlier. Perhaps Allegri was managing his minutes a little bit, or perhaps putting him on along with Pogba was all part of the plan. Putting Chiesa on is never a bad idea, and the results showed that getting him out there was very much the right call, but unless there was a specific number the training staff had on him, he perhaps could’ve come on earlier.
Other than that, trying to pick around the edges today is nitpicking. Hopefully next time the team won’t need to concede in the first 90 seconds of the game in order to push themselves.
A big contest looms over the weekend as Juve hop a train to the capital for a date with Roma, who they drew with 1-1 in August. Roma manager Jose Mourinho was sent off against Cremonese on Tuesday afternoon, so he won’t be on the sideline for the Giallorossi. After that, the Europa League is back as Freiburg comes to Turin for the first leg of the round of 16.