After The Whistle : Inter Milan 2–1 Juventus
“We had a lot of talks with the players, we told each other that we would have to play together as a team the entire match. And it was because of that we won.”
— De Boer
The away side raised a few eyebrows when their lineup was announced. Their big money signing Higuaín was left on the bench, making way for Mario Mandzukic to start the game as Dybala’s strike partner. Juventus’ only other change from their 3–1 win against Sassuolo saw the Ghanaian Kwadwo Asamoah reinstated in the heart of midfield with the young midfielder, Mario Lemina dropping to the bench. Despite these changes, it remained a fully fit Juventus side and were odds on favourite to win the tie. For the home side, De Boer’s decision to start Éder over Perisic had fans sweating early on whether they were facing the Bianconeri with a weakened squad. Their defeat during their midweek Europa league tie certainly didn’t help.
From the start, the Nerazzurri played more aggressively and fearlessly. Perhaps, an admission by the team that they are a level below their visiting rivals and had to make the best of their abilities. By sharp contrast, Juventus seemed to be going through the motions. They played as if they were without a defined game plan and were a step behind their opponents for most of the game. Juventus won less tackles and had the ball taken off them more. Juve’s midfield trio of Pjanic, Asamoah and Khedira collectively had a poor game. They were unadventurous, lacked energy and failed to take a stranglehold of the game. As the game went on, it begun to look like the only way Juventus will walk away with a point was to either stop De Boer’s men from scoring or somehow improve their performance. The match ended in a stalemate at halftime. With one coach hoping to coax an improved performance from his charges and the other anxiously urging his men to capitalise on their momentum.
For a brief moment, it looked as if Juventus were going to somehow mastermind a win despite their poor showing when in the 66min when their wingbacks combined to give them the lead. Asamoah cleverly saw off a challenge in the Inter half and found Alex Sandro with a quick pass whose run down the left saw him dribble past his maker and whip in a delicious low cross into the 6yard box which found the right foot of the oncoming Lichtsteiner. Juventus’ celebration was cut short by Inter’s quick equaliser in the 68min. The seemingly harmless ball swung into the Juventus box by Banega for Inter’s corner hung right above Mauro Icardi’s head as he rose to knock that into the net. Buffon had no chance, and just like that, the momentum had swung back, firmly into the Nerazzurri’s corner.
De Boer to his credit, reacted immediately, sending Perisic on for Éder immediately after the goal. Allegri was slower to respond but eventually brought Higuaín on for Mandzukic in the 75min. However, it was the former Dutch player whose substitution had the desired impact as a terrible clearance saw Juventus on the back foot in their 6yard box. Buffon was able to stop Icardi from finding the back on the net but he managed to hold on to the ball and found Perisic with a delightful ball who expertly guided the ball into the far right corner, leaving Buffon with nothing to do but watch it go in. Juventus were given a lifeline late on in the game when Banega was given his marching orders after being issued a 2nd yellow card. The scoreline however remained 2–1 in favor of the home team as Juventus failed to capitalise on the man advantage during extra time.
There was a lot for the San Siro fans to be excited about. Icardi was brilliant all game and Perisic looked really good when introduced late on. Despite his sending off, Banega put in a terrific performance and was key to their victory. Juventus were handed their first defeat of the league this season in a game they arguably, did their best to lose. This defeat saw them relinquish their lead on the top spot in Serie A. It is early days yet but it is looking like we are in for a competitive fight for the Serie A title.