Basically ever since he walked into the lobby at Continassa, Filip Kostic has done one thing over and over and over again. That’s cross the ball. And then cross the ball. And then cross the ball so more.
Of all Juventus’ attacking players, Kostic averages one of the fewest shot-per-game totals, The man, clearly, has one main priority — and it’s to set his teammates up more than bomb his own shots toward goal.
On Sunday, though, it was his shooting that proved to be oh so valuable.
Kostic’s 23rd-minute strike that saw a whole lot of potential VAR controversy attached to it stood tall as Juventus was able to hold off Inter’s second-half comeback bid with one of its most impressive defensive showings of the season. It didn’t matter what Inter threw Juve’s way, the defense was up to the task — and then some. That was always going to be the case once Kostic found the back of the net, and Juve turned out to play things about as well as anybody could have hoped they would.
Would a second goal would have been nice for your blood pressure? Of course.
But on a night where Juve hunkered down and let Inter have 69 percent of the (nice) possession, it was the visiting team that could (and maybe should have?) won by more than just a 1-0 final scoreline.
And after all of this, even with the points penalty that could very well be taken away in a few weeks, Juventus is all of seven points off fourth place. Not a European spot. Off FOURTH PLACE, FOLKS.
(Say that points penalty gets eliminated, Juve would be sitting pretty and alone in second place behind soon-to-be Scudetto winners Napoli. That is certainly a little different than how we thought things would look when the penalty was first handed down. And yet ...)
This was Juventus going out with a plan of trying to get an early goal, getting said early goal and then executing about as well as they possibly could have defensively. With how they were counterattacking Inter, the final score most certainly could have been more than what it ended up being, but think of things this way:
- Inter had 2 1⁄2 times more total shots than Juventus.
- Inter and Juventus had the same amount of shots on goal.
Two of those three shots on target by Inter were really good saves by Wojciech Szczesny, but for large portions of this game it was the Polish goalkeeper either watching a shot go high and/or wide or for another cross to be cleared out of caught by his own hands.
Basically, for as much possession as Inter had, it’s not like it was all that effective in trying to break Juventus down. This was one of Juve’s best defensive performances for a reason, and it just so happens that it came after some very nervy moments in a couple of their last Serie A outings against Torino and then Sampdoiria.
Because of it, Juve heads into the international break feeling pretty damn good about things and wrapped up a huge week with another big win over their arch-rivals. You couldn’t have drawn it up much better than than when it came to the last couple of games before the first break of 2023.
Knowing what awaits Juventus in April, that is a pretty good development to see.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Pre-game thought No. 1: SOULÉ SZN!
- Pre-game thought No. 2: The average age of Juventus’ starting lineup against Inter: 26.8 years old.
- Post-game thought No. 1: It sure would be nice for Federico Chiesa’s knee to stop all of this little injuries so that we can see somebody who has been through enough over the last 15 months.
- Early in the second half, Inter had over twice as many passes attempted as Juventus. But guess who had the lead? You’re right there — the team that didn’t have the most passes.
- Leandro Paredes was shown a red card for his involvement in the post-game happenings after the final whistle. As a very good friend of mine texted me after the game, that was the “most memorable Juventus stint contribution by Leandro.” Can’t help but agree there.
- Also of note from that post-game stuff: Nicolo Fagioli wanted ALL THAT SMOKE. Our boy doesn’t care who it is and what the context is, he’s going to fight for this shirt and I love him dearly for it.
- Another note on Fagioli: In his first two Derby d’Italia appearances, he’s gone out and done what he’s done. He scored the clincher in the first win over Inter, then goes out and plays that damn well against the Nerazzurri on their home field Sunday night. What a player.
- One more Fagioli note: This was the kind of performance that should be shown to Roberto Mancini with the caption of “Under-21 again? REALLY?” and then just left there for him to watch over and over again.
- Federico Gatti has earned himself some more playing time with his two performances over the last four days, hasn’t he? My goodness has he surprised the hell out of me. And to see him celebrate a late-game clearance like some of our old buddies used to during Juve’s decade-long Serie A dominance, that makes your heart go pitter patter and feel all happy.
- Bremer had about 540 clearances in the air. That might be a few too many, but I feel safe that it was around there.
- If you check Bremer’s pockets, how many different Inter strikers will be in there?
- Just sign Adrien Rabiot to one-year contract extensions for the rest of his career. Do it.
- Manuel Locatelli was an absolute workhorse defensively. What a game.
- Juventus’ midfield, as a whole, was superb. The Fagioli-Locatelli-Rabiot trio just works well together and now that they’ve gotten a good amount of minutes together they’re finding a nice little groove. That’s how a functional midfield is supposed to look — and finally Juventus got it. (Which is ironic considering two of Juve’s highest-paid midfielders have contributed next to nothing this season.)
- Matias Soulé was a lot like Gatti on Thursday night in that he was the biggest surprise in the starting lineup. Overall, he had his moments. Maybe not as strong as some of his recent appearances off the bench, but you can’t hide the fact that a 19-year-old starting the biggest game of his young Juve career didn’t look too overwhelmed by the moment.
- For all we say about the limited touches Dusan Vlahovic gets at times, Romelu Lukaku finished with 23 touches. TWENTY-THREE TOUCHES!
- I have no clue how these players actually feel after this one, but there’s no way that at least a few of them aren’t just completely exhausted. Just look at Mattia De Sciglio as he walked off following his late sub — he was gassed, had nothing left in the tank.
- Shoutout to our boy Sergio who saw his guy Checo get a win in Jeddah and then Juventus beat Inter. That’s one hell of a sports Sunday for one of BWRAO’s favorite people.
- God I love when Juventus beat Inter. It’s so satisfactory. Enjoy your night. I know I will.