Juventus stunned Inter Milan in Saturday’s Serie A clash at the San Siro, overturning a 2-1 deficit with two quick late goals to keep them in pole position for a seventh straight Scudetto.
However, Gonzalo Higuaín’s winner merely papered over the cracks of what had been a distinctly subpar performance by the reigning champions, who conceded twice after Inter had been reduced to ten men.
Meanwhile, the home side had good reason to feel hard done by, as their second half performance arguably merited at least a point against a jaded Juve side.
Here are three things we learned from a bad-tempered, error-strewn and thoroughly absorbing Derby d’Italia.
1. Italian Defending Is No Longer As Watertight As It Once Was
Seeing as Saturday’s clash pitted two of Serie A’s meanest defences against each other, that doesn’t say much for the standard of defending in Serie A.
First of all, Douglas Costa was given the freedom of the Inter penalty area to fire Juve into the lead, from a Juan Cuadrado cross which should have been meat and drink for the Inter back four.
The other four goals were just as woeful from a defensive point of view – two free headers from free kicks and two own goals, although admittedly the own goals were also unfortunate.
Still, these defensive errors did make for a highly entertaining match – though this is unlikely to be much consolation for Luciano Spalletti, whose Nerazzurri now face an uphill struggle to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League.
2. Massimiliano Allegri Is a Highly Courageous Manager – As Well As Being a Lucky One
Not many managers would have had the nerve to replace their entire back four and drop one of their attacking stars before a make-or-break match like Saturday evening’s clash at the San Siro.
Yet that’s exactly what Juve boss Allegri did.
One of his most eyebrow-raising decisions was to play Juan Cuadrado in the right wing-back role, but it just about paid off, as the Colombian contributed to three goals on the night – two of which were for his own side.
The Juve manager’s decision to bring on Paulo Dybala – whom he had dropped after a disappointing display against Napoli – also reaped dividends, as it was Dybala’s free kick that set up Higuaín’s late headed winner.
Nevertheless, the final scoreline was highly flattering to Allegri’s side, who owed their victory to a large slice of luck.
On this occasion, fortune definitely favoured the brave.
3. Juve Have One of the Most Important Qualities of All True Champions
OK, it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s also undeniably true – great champions always find a way to win when they need to, even when they’re not playing well.
To say Juventus didn’t play well in the second half of Saturday’s game would be an understatement. For the first twenty minutes after the break, they were awful. They seemed to be unpleasantly surprised that their bitter rivals wouldn’t just capitulate and let them hold onto their 1-0 first-half lead.
Inter fully deserved their two second-half goals – and they even came agonisingly close to adding a third through Mauro Icardi, who couldn’t quite reach Antonio Candreva’s teasing low cross.
Yet just when it looked as though Juve were going to hand Napoli the advantage in the race for the Scudetto, the reigning champions somehow dug themselves out of a hole of their own making with two rapid-fire goals.
Anyone can win when they play well. It takes a very special side to win after playing as poorly as Juventus did for long periods on Saturday.