Euro 2020 Special
 

Derby d’Italia: The Old Lady Sings In A Five-Goal Thriller Against Inter Milan

Fiercely contested on-field action coupled with a series of controversial refereeing decisions saw Juventus edge out their historic rivals Inter Milan 3-2 at the Juventus Stadium on Saturday. The Derby d’Italia is one of the most awaited matches in the Italian football calendar, but the fixture assumed added significance as Inter have managed to deny Juve the Scudetto, ending their reign at the top of Italian football.

Here we take a look at the historic rivalry between both clubs, and how the Derby d’Italia panned out on the field:

HISTORIC RIVALRY

The rivalry between Juventus based in Turin and Internazionale based in Milan is one of the most widely followed and fiercely contested rivalries in world football. The two northern Italian clubs are not only the top two clubs in Serie A but are also considered among the best clubs across Europe. The origins of the rivalry are unclear, but fans of both teams consider the infamous 1961 derby between both sides when Juve thrashed Inter 9-1 to be the starting point of animosity between both clubs.

There were numerous on-field and off-field altercations between the players and the fans of both clubs since then, but the most prominent one is the 1998 fixtures between both sides, where the rivalry reached the halls of the Italian Parliament. Inter Milan’s Ronaldo was denied a penalty by the referee, which effectively handed the Bianconeri the Scudetto that season. Both sides were implicated in the Calciopoli scandals that shook Italian football in the early years of the 21st century – while Inter got away with some points stripped, Juve were relegated to Serie B.

The Bianconeri have been dominant in Italian football even before the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo to the club, but Inter have grabbed the Scudetto this year already – ending Juve’s run of nine successive years at the top of Italian football. With 110 wins in 241 fixtures contested between the rivals, Juventus come out on top in the head-to-head comparisons. The Turin-based club had also won three of the last five fixtures against their northern Italian rivals.

HOW THE MATCH PANNED OUT

Antonio Conte’s men lined up in their traditional 3-5-2 lineup that allows them to dominate the game from midfield, with Achraf Hakimi and Matteo Darmian acting as the wingers who can quickly push ahead to attack using a 3-3-4 formation. The Bianconeri, on the other hand, have been more fluid with their lineups, using 3-5-2 or 3-2-3-2 lineups when they need to attack, and falling back to the 4-4-2 base formation when they are pushed against the wall. With a loss in the Derby D’Italia shutting the door on their Champions League hopes, Andrea Pirlo preferred the latter to ward off any attacks from Inter.

All plans made by the managers had to be quickly shelved on Saturday night, however, as the match was dominated by a series of questionable refereeing decisions that saw the match dominated by set features. The Bianconeri pushed ahead early in the match with a sense of urgency, keen to score a goal and have an early advantage in the night. Their efforts paid off in the 24th minute when Cristiano Ronaldo took advantage of a rebound from his penalty kick.

Inter were quick to level the score as Romelu Lukaku converted a penalty conceded by Matthijs de Ligt just 10 minutes later. Juve were definitely the better attacking side in the first half, as their xG of 2.30 shows. A brilliant right-footed shot from Juan Cuadrado from outside the box in the extra time allowed Juve a 2-1 lead heading into the half-time break.

The Bianconeri had an early setback in the second half, mostly due to their own indiscipline, as Rodrigo Bentancur was shown a second yellow card. Juve had to manage the rest of the game with just 10 men, a problem compounded by a struggling Cristiano Ronaldo. The legendary striker had to be substituted in the 70th minute for not offering enough and was replaced by Álvaro Morata for the rest of the game.

Juventus couldn’t cope with the twin blows in the late second half, as Giorgio Chiellini’s own goal vanished their one-goal advantage, and it looked like Juve will have to settle for a draw. Inter’s defence was too indisciplined, conceding a late penalty, which Juan Cuadrado quickly converted for Juve.

HOW THEY PERFORMED

Juve’s defence performed relatively better on a night when they had to prevent a loss at all costs. Matthijs de Ligt’s foul is questionable, and captain Giorgio Chiellini’s own goal was not his doing. Juan Cuadrado shined in the midfield, scoring two crucial goals that sealed the game for Juve and compensated for Cristiano Ronaldo’s lack of form.

Inter Milan’s defence was wobbly against an aggressive attack from the Bianconeri. Achraf Hakimi and Matteo Darmian failed to perform their dual roles, and Marcelo Brozovic had the hard task of pushing back Juve’s midfield all alone. Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku shone at the front, putting constant pressure on the Bianconeri’s defences and extracting a penalty from them.

Juve had an xG of 3.14 at the end of the match, which reflected in the scoreline, albeit from set pieces. Inter were less impressive, netting an xG of just 1.39, and would have ended the match with just one goal if not for a controversial penalty decision. Inter dominated in the midfield with 59% of the overall possession, but they could not effectively convert them into chances as they put in just eight shots compared to Juve’s 13. In the end, the thriller was decided more on the fouls made than on pure tactics – with Inter conceding 18 fouls and two penalties that decided the match in Juve’ favour.

LOOKING FORWARD

Juventus entered the match desperate for a win against their old rivals. With the narrow win, they bagged three points, remaining in contention for a Champions League berth. Inter on the other hand will not be too disappointed at the loss – they are going to be crowned the Italian champions in a week, the first time in 11 years.