Euro 2020 Special
 

Serie A: Cuadrado the Difference in Derby d’Italia

Juventus 3-2 Inter Milan

The outgoing Serie A champions against the side which has taken their crown following nine successive Scudetti.

So, would this fixture indicate Juventus’ days as leading lights are over?

Indeed, could Inter Milan – fresh from their first title in 11 years – become the new dominant force after breaking Juve’s stranglehold on Italian football’s top prize?

Novice coach Andrea Pirlo versus the former Juventus favourite Antonio Conte. Speculation has been rife that Pirlo will pay for their failed title defence with his job in the summer.

Furthermore, reports suggest he can decide to remain at the club by taking up the post of under 23-boss but is unlikely to do so and is open to managing a team outside Italy.

Either way, if Pirlo can secure a top-four finish and win the Italian Cup – he did knock Inter out of the Coppa Italia en route to the final – then he can certainly bow out with his head held high.

To fulfill that first objective, the ‘Old Lady’ of Turin needed three points in this one. 

Highlights of the game

This really was the last chance saloon for Juventus because Conte and Inter would love nothing more than to celebrate the Scudetto by blocking their arch-rivals’ route to the Champions League.

After keeping their hopes alive with a 3-1 win away to Sassuolo in midweek, only after 43-year-old Gigi Buffon saved an early penalty, a good start was required by the hosts.

They almost got it when Federico Chiesa nodded down a cross and Dejan Kulusevski’s cushioned volley was hacked off the line by Milan Skriniar.

The lead was theirs midway through the first half when Giorgio Chiellini was adjudged to have been fouled in the box and, while the ever-impressive Samir Handanovic saved Cristiano Ronaldo’s spot-kick, CR7 followed up the rebound.

Despite scoring twice, Inter Milan lose to Juventus in their latest Serie A encounter
Romelu Lukaku celebrates with teammates after scoring their first goal against Juventus

VAR was involved again 10 minutes later and this time in favour of the new champions as Matthijs De Ligt trod on the back of Lautaro Martinez’s foot in the penalty area.

Romelu Lukaku has only been on the winning team against Juventus once: in January when Inter secured a 2-0 triumph, a match which Conte admitted was a turning point for his men in the title race.

The Belgian never looked like missing, though, as he sent Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way from the spot.

Just as it looked as if the sides would go in level at the break, Juan Cuadrado produced a special moment as the Colombian hit a powerful effort which deflected off Christian Eriksen and looped over the helpless Handanovic.

The goal, on the stroke of half-time, was a real boon for the home side who have struggled at times this season and been on the end of some surprise results.

Their task was made more difficult 10 minutes after the restart when Rodrigo Bentancur was shown a second yellow card.

Suddenly, the SBOTOP Serie A 2021 betting odds on a Juventus victory were reduced, further concerning the club hierarchy – who have yet to officially withdraw from the proposed European Super League – given they will face heavy consequences on a financial and a sporting level if they miss out on a Champions League spot.

After Szczesny saved from Matias Vecino, they were less than 10 minutes from holding out before there was more drama with VAR.

Initially, Chiellini was awarded a free-kick, despite putting the ball into his own net, for a suspected foul by Lukaku. Yet the television evidence took another look and reserved the decision, booking the defender for hanging onto the Belgian.

It was now all level and Juventus’ hopes were slipping away until a few more Serie A 2021 highlights in the closing stages.

As play went down the other end, Cuadrado was tripped by substitute Ivan Perisic and he dusted himself down before duly dispatching the spot-kick for the 10-men.

In stoppage time, Chiellini made amends for his own goal by blocking a Skriniar effort before Marcelo Brozovic received a second yellow card for hacking down the man of the moment, Cuadrado, as the contest finished 10 versus 10.

How crucial could that be!

Juventus are still alive.

Key statistics

Cuadrado is the first Juve player to score a brace against Inter in Serie A since Darko Kovacevic in April 2000.

This was Handanovic’s 328th match with the Nerazzurri in Serie A, a joint-record for an Inter goalkeeper in the competition alongside Walter Zenga.

Lukaku is only the fourth player to score 23+ league goals with Inter in successive seasons following Mauro Icardi, Stefano Nyers and Giuseppe Meazza.

What’s next?

The match to save Juventus’ season is up next. It’s the 2021 Coppa Italia final against Atalanta. That is followed by their final Serie A league match of the 20/21 as Juve travel to Bologna.

Inter round off their title-winning campaign at Udinese next Sunday (May 23).