Inter 1 – 2 Juventus

31 Mar

Buffon-

An excellent showing from Santo Buffon. Far more involved than in previous outings, he showed that he remains world class and a vital part of our team with two glorious saves; firstly tipping at full stretch Cassano’s drive from outside the box just wide of the post and then later in the game, reacting with ocelot reflexes to save point blank on the goal-line from Palacio’s header. Not at fault for the goal, and was one of two major reasons for our victory. Its wonderful to have a living legend between the sticks, a legend which continues to grow…9/10.

Chiellini-

’twas a pleasure as always to see his name included in the starting line-up when many had suggested he could miss this one through injury or simply to rest him in preparation for Tuesday’s jaunt in Bavaria…Threw himself into every challenge as if the existence of everything he loved depended on the outcome, bombed forward with regularity, once losing the ball in a dangerous position, tearing back to recover, happy to see Asamoah covering and sweeping up in the 18 yard box. At times not one of the opposition players could find the bravery or belief needed to commit themselves into an aerial duel with Giorgio! Which certainly helps us keep the skies safe and dominated in vital areas.

A touch ragged in the final third, but defensively, he was monstrous. It must be noted, however, that he was lucky yo get away with a bizarre back heel hack on Cassano in the box…a coming together of legs which could very easily been given as a penalty.7/10

Barzagli-

Impeccable. Rarely stretched. Always comfortable in possession and constantly covering, marking, intercepting. Andrea has grown in stature over the last 12 months, fully justifying the special potential everyone saw in him during his Palermo days. Now surely ranked as one of the finest centre-backs in the world game, alongside Bonucci and Chiellini. Great in the air, mobile on the ground, continues to prove himself as a world class signing by Marotta. 8/10.

Bonucci-

Brought the ball out of defence Beckenbauer style, truly growing into the libero/sweeper role. His passing requires improvement, but his all round defensive game is phenomenal. As with his chums in the rearguard triumvirate, Leo is quick on his feet, brutal in the tackle and incredibly strong. Even managed to follow an attack to the opposing penalty area finding his own head on the end of the final ball into the box! A typically swashbuckling display. 7.5/10.

Padoin-

Seemed out of his depth in a role which demands greater technical ability. The rough and tumble part of the position are of no problem, neither are the stamina demands, but he lacks the technique of all our other more natural options for RWB (Lichsteiner, Isla, Caceres). He was unlucky with a first time shot which flew straight at Handanovic, but was otherwise invisible or ill at ease on the ball for long periods of the game. 4th choice in that role and he showed why…Still, no major mistakes and he proved belligerent and dependable if not much else.6/10.

Asamoah-

Finally regaining the fine form of his pre-ACON juve career, the blackest man on the pitch gave a commendable performance. Stretching the Inter midfield wide, popping up in defence to clean up after Chiellini’s error, supplying the ball to Quagliarella for the opener, exchanging delicate passes with Marchisio to work the ball up the left wing…He was all over the place, bringing more dynamism to the LWB role than Peluso has managed in the run of games he has enjoyed since signing in January. 7.5/10

Marchisio-

Fought gallantly, kept himself involved in the thick of the action from start to finish and looked in solid shape. He seems to prefer playing next to the technically stronger Asamoah instead of Peluso and the link-up play between the two is improving. No injury and a fair contribution, both offensively and defensively, to a victory which will mean more to him than most, given his time with the club during our darkest calciopoli days. Satisfactory…6.5/10.

Pirlo-

It was his error high up the field which directly led to Cassano playing in Palacio for the equalizing goal. Apart from that costly mistake he was generally imperious, chasing hard, tackling hard, pressing, pressing, always pressing for an opening. The most comfortable player on the ball of either team. He was given a generous amount of time to play, but with the rest of the Juve offence well marshalled by the Inter defence and midfield, sometimes its a sound routine to thwart our plans; mark all obvious options and make Pirlo go it alone or pass sideways and backwards. His grit and determination were as welcome as his eagerness to move the ball intelligently, but he needs to raise his game on Tuesday. No fancy footwork assists to the Munchen outfit, please Andrea…6.5/10.

Vidal-

Started so brightly and the two week break from competitive action has clearly done him the world of good, with his energy levels astonishing. With the 0-1 lead we held, he was content to push forward but maintain his midfield enforcer presence more readily. I am impressed with his self control, and ability to change the tempo of his own game to suit the circumstances. On occasion, he really does look world class. Passing, tackling, hustling, truly a box to box beast of a midfielder. And still only 25 years old…7/10.

Quagliarella-

I’ve been campaigning for many moons for the increased inclusion in our starting XI of the player I feel is by far our most potent in the final third. And in this match of huge importance against our most bitter rivals, Fabio delivered. His opening goal was tremendous, in terms of quality and execution. Expecting the dummy from Matri, picking up a smart pass from Asamoah, one touch to kill the ball, one touch to turn, and a final touch to strike the ball beautifully past Handanovic into the top corner of the goal. All from 30 yards out…Later in the game, when Inter had us on the ropes for several periods, Vidal’s probing through ball found the striker near the byline, keeping it in on the line, delivering a perfect cross to the near post for Matri to finish clinically. Superb. 9/10.

Matri-

Allessandro found it hard to link up with the rest of the team, and looked out of sorts, or perhaps just well marked. Certainly has an easier time of things with Vucinic in the team, for the montenegrin supplies a direct link between midfield and attack, but nevertheless, Matri scored the winner…A true strikers finish. Near post run, ghosting past the defender who didn’t realize the threat until the ball was in the net. His job is to score goals, and despite managing only 7 starts in Serie A this term, his 7 goals represent a good return.7/10.

SUBS-

Peluso-

Brought on to save Asamoah for Tuesday’s game, Frederico tried hard to get stuck in but his efforts culminated in a niggly foul or three and little else. His presence in a more defensive LWB role than the ghanaian, helped the back three settle down and shut up shop. 6/10.

Pogba-

A strange substitution given it altered our shape to 3-5-1-1 (at best), or more realistically 3-6-1, as nobody appeared keen to dive into a trequartista role. Paul was solid, much more concerned with adding a layer of muscle and tenacity to protect the 3 points than launching waves of attack in the opposing half. Not much to judge him on really…6.5/10.

Giovinco-

Arrived in a very unfamiliar position of leading the line, but he did ever so well, until Cambiasso tried to break his ankle with the last kick of the game. Sebastian was all over the front line, winning plenty of free kicks, helping to frustrate an already angry, bothered, desperate opponent, even earning himself a yellow card complete with shrug of the shoulders when hacking through an opponent. His job was to find a late goal or give Inter something to worry about, taking the wind out of the sails of their late assault. On these measures, he did very well. 8/10.

Conte-

Some will say that he rested Giovinco and Vucinic, although I think Mirko is sick, but I see only Lichsteiner as a definite first XI starter who was rested for this battle. The rest of the team was full strength. He made his substitutions carefully and logically, and will have been happy to see his troops hold out for a welcome rebalancing of the scales against the team which ended our majestic 49 game unbeaten streak last November. It would have been interesting to see Anelka come on for Matri, and Pogba give Marchisio or Vidal a break but yet again, Conte has emerged from a fierce war unscathed and victorious. 8/10.

Cambiasso, John Rambo, Giovinco, Beppe Marrotta

The death of Cambiasso

Conclusion-

Make no mistake, this was a very hard fought victory. I could have no complaints, only anger and furious rage, had the referee given the penalty for Chiellini’s awkward challenge in the area on Cassano (who to his credit, didn’t make much of a meal of it). Buffon also was called into action to make two galactic class saves from goal-ward efforts that would have surely found the net and changed the complexion of the game were it not for our captain’s immense ability.

Inter’s tactics were thuggish, spiteful and at times I wondered why the referee was allowing the challenges to go unpunished. Perriera is a nasty piece of work. Palacio’s too close together eyes suggest in-breeding and the rat-tail hair cut is clearly designed to wind up the opposition. The challenge of Cambiasso upon Giovinco would result in a very lengthy ban in the premiership, or bundesliga, or la liga, but in Italy??? A challenge completely born of viciousness and frustration, which could very easily have ended Giovinco’s career, will probably incur only a 3 match suspension. Which is a joke…its especially dark comedy when I hear fans talk of the italian game ‘full of pansies, all falling over each other when they break a nail’, for the premiership is hugely more cosy and soft in the modern era. Due to the commercialization of the premiership football product the nastier side of the game has been stamped out…No more Vinny Jones or Duncan Ferguson or Dennis Wise types. Whereas in Italy, brutal thuggery is commonplace.

Inter should be ashamed of themselves for their comportment. But they won’t be. Moratti should apologize for that Cambiasso tackle. But he won’t. Why?? Because they are scum. Classless. And rarely fail to confirm their position as ungentlemanly and uncouth.

This match proved better preparation for the champions league tie than I had predicted. We lost no player to injury, achieved a quality result in a horrid atmosphere against a team unquestionably fired up and out for our heads on sticks. Its fair to look at the performance of both sides objectively and conclude that we were fortunate to win, as its of equal value to suggest that we did what was needed. Grabbed an early lead, defended it until we conceded, then amped up our output enough to pull ourselves back into the lead before settling into a defensive formation to see the game out.

What was of interest was the return to form of Asamoah and obvious advantages of playing two strikers in our attack. With Vucinic and Giovinco both playing, we tend to rely much more upon our midfielders to drive into the box. Because the little man is at best a second striker and Mirko is a trequartista/ attacking midfield, we have little presence in the box. When they are swapped for a much more traditional pairing of Matri/ Quagliarella, prima punta/ second striker, our midfield is more open but we have two players both making runs in the final third which simply don’t occur in their absence. Against a team like Inter, who adopt a very physical approach I prefer to see a true presence up top. It stops their defenders from bringing the ball up the field and keeps the midfield on their toes in the process.

Overall a solid game, with Quagliarella and Buffon my joint Men of the Match. And honourable mentions for Bonucci, Barzagli and Asamoah.

Cambiasso, Perriera and Moratti should all be chain-whipped…or branded with hot-irons.

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