Juventus' character allows them a win in the Derby d'Italia

Posted by Mina Rzouki

A perfect demonstration of mental fortitude saw Juventus prevail over Inter in the much anticipated Derby d'Italia to open a temporary 12 point gap at the top of Serie A. With Napoli yet to play their away game against Torino, the Old Lady took her chances to secure her domination in the domestic league in an intense match riddled with controversy.

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The media reports leading up to the 'game of the season' only served to further intensify the fierce rivalry between the two sides. Gazzetta dello Sport yesterday opted to publish a piece in which they admitted the Calciopoli investigation was 'imperfect'. They duly went on to note the 'gross error' committed by the sporting institutions that saw them award the 2006 Scudetto to Inter. The Nerazzurri fans fought back by displaying a giant banner that read 'proud to be the only ones' in reference to the fact they are now the only side to have never been demoted to Serie B -- an honour they once shared with Juventus prior to the match-fixing scandal.

The whistle blew and it took only three minutes before Juventus took the lead. However, this was not an easy match for the Bianconeri and while they always looked to be in control, they were forced to work hard for the result and benefitted from a hint of good luck.

The difference between two sides lied in midfield. While Juventus again opted for their usual 3-5-2 formation, Inter chose to start with a 3-4-1-2 shape that saw Ricky Alvarez tasked with quieting Andrea Pirlo. The problem was, the youngster failed rather miserably, leaving the Italian with all the time and space in the world to direct play and deliver the right penetrative passes. Juventus were allowed to control the game largely because Pirlo excelled with his quick thinking to allow for a precise and cohesive Juventus style of play.

With both sides playing with a high line, the game was full of long balls over the top. A physical match played at a high tempo, neither team looked defensively secure allowing for an open game. However, it was Fabio Quagliarella's 25-yard screamer that gifted Juventus a dream start. Prevented from penetrating the Inter back line, the player with a penchant for the spectacular, curled in his effort into the top corner to astound his opponents and the home fans.

Disjointed and surprised, it took Andrea Stramaccioni's men a few minutes before they could react but when they did, it took an outstanding reaction save from Gianluigi Buffon to prevent an equaliser. However, their effort signalled their intent. They were not going to give up.

The game was an open one with both sides attacking with all their might. Every poor delivery from a set piece allowed the Bianconeri to counter-attack with speed to terrify their opponents. Meanwhile, Antonio Cassano and Rodrigo Palacio exhibited the understanding between them by creating stunning attacking passages of play to exploit any gaps at the back. However, that final ball was missing and Inter rarely threated Juve's control.

After the break, Strama made the usual substitutions one would expect from him in hopes of effecting change. Alvarez, who disappointed in the first half, was taken off and replaced by Fredy Guarin to allow Inter a more physical approach. Nine minutes later and the Nerazzurri equalised. A mistake from Pirlo led to the Inter chance and with no one tracking Palacio's run, the forward was allowed to slice open the Juventus defence to strike.

Afforded only a few moments to celebrate, Juventus scored the winner only minutes later to cut short the celebrations. Once again, the Old Lady has Quagliarella to thank for keeping the ball in play to deliver a perfect pass for the well-positioned Alessandro Matri to strike. Juventus were back on top.

Inter were livid. They were almost certain the ball had gone out of play before Matri struck with the bench up in arms. Replays showed they were wrong. The ball did not cross the line. However, their anger at what they perceived to be biased refereeing allowed the game to descend into a match of emotional exchanges.

The Nerazzuri were adamant that they ought to have been awarded a few penalties. Giorgio Chiellini was perhaps lucky to escape without punishment when he made contact with Cassano in the box. The Inter forward, who was already frustrated at his side’s inability to penetrate, grew more and more angry and was caught quarrelling with Antonio Conte on the sidelines.

However, it was Esteban Cambiasso who surrendered to his emotions as he committed a horror tackle on Sebastian Giovinco to destroy the player’s ankle in the final minute of the game. Dismissed almost immediately, the player was distraught and immediately went to apologise to Seba before going to seek forgiveness from the Juventus locker room after the match. Such an intense rivalry was always going to end in drama even if the match was fairly contested up until that point.

Despite the controversy, Juventus are thrilled to have grabbed maximum points before their Champions League encounter on Tuesday. One step closer to the Scudetto, it's time to focus on Europe.

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