Sarri’s Risk Pays Off: Juve Edge Out Inter to Catch Derby d’Italia

Juventus won the Derby d’Italia, and what a strong statement they made. The Bianconeri are still the fiercest team in the mix, and since tonight officially the number one pretender to the title as they raided San Siro to regain the solitary lead of the Serie A league table.

It was mostly a victory of their Comandante Maurizio Sarri, who started with Paulo Dybala and finished with Gonzalo Higuain. Both his strikers made it to the scorecard, with Lautaro Martinez temporarily equalizing for Inter from the penalty spot.

75000 people were on the stands of the San Siro Stadium for the first do-or-die showdown of Serie A 2019-2020, which generated the highest revenue ever for an Italian league match. The show did meet the expectations, with a sparkling first half, and a more slow-paced ripresa where the Old Lady however found the winning shot with the reborn Pipita.

Maurizio Sarri surprised pundits and analysts as he placed Federico Bernardeschi instead of Aaron Ramsey behind the front line, whereas Paulo Dybala was chosen as Cristiano Ronaldo’s attacking partner. No surprises among the Nerazzurri lines, with recovered Romelu Lukaku re-joining Lautaro Martinez in attack.

Antonio Conte relied on good defense and counterattacks to put his claim on the Derby d’Italia, but the plan failed and condemned his side to suffer their first Serie A loss this season. Juventus’ coach made full score by taking more risks, in primis by deploying Paulo Dybala in place of his fellow countryman Gonzalo Higuain.

It was a hazard that paid off, as it took only four minutes for Miralem Pjanic to see the right corridor past Inter’s high defensive line and serve La Joya a brilliant filtering pass. Dybala’s shot slid through Milan Skriniar’s legs, as well as between Samir Handanovic’s hands to end in the bottom left corner of the net. It was a shocker, as the Nerazzurri had had a more aggressive start.

Paulo Dybala, here challenged by Marcelo Brozovic, was Maurizio Sarri’s unexpected hazard which paid off – as the Argentinian scored the opener in his Juventus’ 1-2 win at San Siro

Dybala’s opener shook Inter’s confidence, and Maurizio Sarri’s side eventually legitimated their lead when Cristiano Ronaldo made Handanovic’s woodwork rattle with a superb shot in the 9th minute.

Juventus’ advantage didn’t last long however. Matthijs De Ligt’s impetuousness caused him to hit the ball with an elbow as he tried to anticipate Lautaro Martinez in his area. It was a crystal-clear penalty, which showed how the young Dutchman still has a thing or two to learn. Martinez took charge of converting the penalty, which he did with an effective shot to the right side of the goal. Wojciech Szczesny did read his intentions, but the Argentinian managed to place to put the ball just a few inches outside of his reach.    

In the 27th minute, Romelu Lukaku ignited a new progression by Lautaro Martinez, who got ahead of Leonardo Bonucci to challenge Szczesny from out of the box. The Polish goalie drove his shot away. Three minutes later, bad news hit Inter as Stefano Sensi raised white flag due to a muscle strain. Antonio Conte replaced him with Matias Vecino, moving Nicoló Barella to the left.  

Juventus did not let the pressure go, as Blaise Matuidi served Cristiano Ronaldo from the left in the 40th minute. CR7’s shot was violent but central, and “hit” Samir Handanovic. That proved to be only a dress rehearsal leading to a new goal, as just one minute later it was Paulo Dybala to set Ronaldo free to shot from short distance. The Portuguese did not miss this time, but his feat was disallowed by referee Gianluca Rocchi and his video assistants, who caught a pinpoint offside position by La Joya.

Cristiano Ronaldo tried an acrobatic conversion, but Inter’s Matias Vecino anticipated him with a header

The two teams switched sides with no changes, unless until minute 53 – when another injury pulled out Inter’s defender Diego Godin. Conte thus resorted to 20-year-old Alessandro Bastoni. Maurizio Sarri’s substitutions were more intentional: The Comandante operated a double change in the 60th minute, pulling out Sami Khedira and a disappointing Federico Bernardeschi to make way for Rodrigo Bentancur and the grande escluso Gonzalo Higuain. El Pipita took place next to Cristiano Ronaldo, while Paulo Dybala moved back behind the front line.

Just a few minutes earlier, German midfielder Khedira had set Paulo Dybala free to shot in front of Samir Handanovic, but Inter’s keeper had covered the goal well. The Nerazzurri’s answer lied in a beautiful flip by Matias Vecino for Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian forward was stopped by Leonardo Bonucci using the so-called mestiere – Italian for “craftsmanship,” a nice way to say that Bonucci pushed him down in the box swiftly enough not to be noticed by the referee.        

Maurizio Sarri pulled off Paulo Dybala for Turkish playmaker Emre Can, switching Rodrigo Bentancur to a trequartista position. Antonio Conte added Matteo Politano to his offensive solutions, replacing Lautaro Martinez – who left the pitch among the applauses from his supporters.

With four minutes to go, a beautiful one-touch combination among Cristiano Ronaldo, Rodrigo Bentancur, and Gonzalo Higuain ended with El Pipita’s left-foot shot which left no chance to Samir Handanovic.

El Pipita Gonzalo Higuain celebrates after scoring the decisive goal: Juventus saw off Inter at the San Siro Stadium thanks to his late goal

Inter did not give up, and in the 84th minute, a brilliant filtering pass by Marco D’Ambrosio delivered a golden opportunity for Matias Vecino to go one-on-one with Wojciech Szczesny. Juve’s goalkeeper however stopped his shot to preserve the Bianconeri’s lead. That was the last clear chance of the game.

Juventus won, regaining the top spot of the table they have been holding for the last eight years. Inter left with heads held high, but also a potential crack in their confidence as they suffered the second loss in a row. The upcoming international break will give both sides a chance to reorganize, but for the time being, Serie A has found a new ruler (…new?).


October 6, 2019 – Serie A 2019-2020 Round 7

SCORERS: 4′ Dybala (J), 18′ Lautaro Martinez (I, pen.), 79′ Higuain (J)

INTER (3-5-2): Handanovic; Godin (54′ Bastoni), De Vrij, Skriniar; D’Ambrosio, Barella, Brozovic, Sensi (33′ Vecino), Asamoah; Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez (77′ Politano) (Padelli, Biraghi, Candreva, Dimarco, Esposito, Gagliardini, Lazaro, Ranocchia, Borja Valero) Coach: Conte
JUVENTUS (4-3-1-2): Szczesny; Cuadrado, Bonucci, De Ligt, Alex Sandro; Khedira (62′ Bentancur), Pjanic, Matuidi; Bernardeschi (62′ Higuain); Dybala (71′ Emre Can), Cristiano Ronaldo (Buffon, Pinsoglio, Demiral, Rabiot, Ramsey, Rugani) Coach: Sarri

REFEREE: Mr. Rocchi from Florence
NOTES: Yellow Cards: Vecino, Barella (I), Alex Sandro, Pjanic, Cuadrado (J); Extra Time: 1st Half 4′, 2nd Half 4′

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