And it was, thankfully. As the sun came down on another miserable UK winter’s evening in lockdown London, I boarded the train home and weighed up whether I had the energy to watch Juve at the San Siro, against a team I hate, who had out-classed and out-fought Juve only a few weeks earlier. However, as always, Juve prevailed over all other options.
So, the line-ups: Buffon; Cuadrado, Demiral, De Ligt, Sandro; McKennie, Rabiot, Bentancur, Bernadeschi; Ronaldo, Kulusevski. Rabiot coming in for Arthur who was excellent at the weekend, whilst Demiral and De Ligt started a rare game together.
Right from the first moments of the game, it was obvious that Juve were up for this match. The team pressed with intensity, were disciplined in maintaining their shape, whilst the unorthodox front two of Ronaldo and Kulusevski were working well together, taking it in turns to drop short and run in behind. Things were looking good. Then of course, Inter score. Ultimately, Buffon should have got a stronger hand to the ball and De Ligt shouldn’t be beaten to the ball by Martinez, however sometimes you have put your hands up and say the opposition have scored a well worked goal. 1-0.
Now, this is where I feared the capitulation would happen, in the same way as it did against Inter and Fiorentina in the league. My fear however was eased in the 21st minute by Bernadeschi’s cross to: no one in particular. Ashley Young somehow deemed it necessary to tug Cuadrado’s arm to stop him getting on the end of it, when in truth he was no closer to heading it in as I was sat on my sofa at home. After a VAR referral, the penalty was given, which Ronaldo smashed home to end his 3 game goal drought.
The second goal for Juve was a Handanovic disaster class! An innocuous ball in behind the Inter defence seemed to be a non event, until the Inter goalkeeper came flying out of his goal like his mind had been temporarily controlled by an excitable Jack Russell. This lead to Bastoni completely making a hash of a clearance which was there to be made, and Ronaldo having the apparently simple task of rolling the ball into an empty net. I have to say there was never a doubt that ball was going to creep in off the post. Never a doubt. Never. 2-1 at half time.
The second half I will summarise in a paragraph. Inter looked to seize the initiative, whilst Juve eased off of the pressing to ensure that their two banks of four across the 18 yard box held firm. Inter did what Inter do: switch the play from side to side, ad infinitum before spamming crosses in the hope that something will break for them. In fact, the only times my heart entered my mouth in the second half, were as a result of our own errors. In the 56th minute Bentancur (more on him later) sloppily gave the ball away on the edge of the area, leaving Sanchez one on one with Buffon. Somehow, the Chilean didn’t score. It was a great clearance off of the line by Demiral, but a mountain goat with a limp could have scored that. Fast forward to the 68th minute and again sloppy play at the back lead to Darmian forcing an incredible save out of Buffon. Inter plugged away, but Pirlo played his subs well, with Arthur coming on with his velcro boots to bolster the midfield, and Morata replacing Ronaldo. The game became scrappy towards the end, and thankfully Juve held on for the victory.
PIRLO: Pirlo’s tactics were spot on. Whatever your opinion on whether he was the right appointment or not, you cannot deny that this team is well drilled. The players know their roles and responsibilities and they clearly play for the manager. When we have lost this season, it has generally been because of individual errors.
BENTANCUR: For me, it is one or the other- Bentancur or Rabiot. When they play together, the ball is turned over far too much for my liking. Bentancur, was really sloppy tonight (again). Misplaced passes left, right and centre and almost gave a goal away due to his inability to control a football.
DE LIGT: Yes, he made a mistake for their goal, but instead of dropping his head, he put on his big boy pants and was solid for the rest of the game. Dropping Barella onto his backside in the second half was a particular highlight.
SKRINIAR and BONUCCI: Have the same stoop. I’d never noticed that before, but they both run in a manner that makes me think that they descended from the same breed of dinosaur.
Juve need to draw confidence from this performance and use it as a springboard for the remainder of this month, where there are some really difficult fixtures coming up. I have seen enough from Juve this season to have confidence in the project and I’m sure that if individual errors can be minimised, the title challenge is on once we return to Serie A action.