In the Derby d’Italia, a diving header from Mario Mandzukic was enough for Serie A frontrunners Juventus to claim victory against rivals Inter at the Allianz Stadium.
In a fiery opening period filled with rugged challenges, Inter would have been disappointed that they failed to take a lead into the second half. Surprise starter Roberto Gagliardini saw his strike come off the inside of the post, before Croatian winger Ivan Perisic saw his drilled effort flash just wide, as the Nerazzurri’s early dynamism unsettled the league leaders.
However, Allegri’s side responded with a far better second period and enjoyed large spells of possession in the Inter half. Their relentless pressure eventually paid off, as Mario Mandzukic’s diving header from a Joao Cancelo cross just past the hour mark gave the Old Lady a deserved lead.
The home side’s defence then stood firm amidst late pressure from Inter and helped Juventus to a crucial victory over their third-placed rivals.
Check out our breakdown of the game below.
Key Talking Point
Heading into the game unbeaten in ?Serie A, Allegri’s side were presented with the task of facing a rejuvenated Inter. After struggling to cope with the Nerazzurri’s tempo in the first half,
Juventus came out strong in the second half.
Having pinned Inter into their own half they claimed victory thanks to a header from Mandzukic. It was a performance that rarely had moments of attacking quality, but crucially, Allegri’s side showed the resolve and sheer determination to see themselves over the line.
With Cristiano Ronaldo now amongst their ranks, and an already impervious defensive structure led by Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, it is no wonder that Juventus are considered early favourites to lift the Champions League this season.
Starting XI: Szczesny (7); Cancelo (8), Bonucci (7), Chiellini (8*), De Sciglio (7); Bentancur (7), Pjanic (6), Matuidi (7); Dybala (7), Mandzukic (8), Ronaldo (7).
Substitutes: Douglas Costa (6), Can (6).
STAR MAN – Up against one of the Serie A’s most prolific strikers in Mauro Icardi, Italian centre-back Chiellini essentially bullied his Argentine counterpart into submission. The veteran defender was aggressive and strong in the tackle and barely gave Icardi a look-in for the entire game.
Giorgio Chiellini’s game stats against Inter:
2 Shots (1 On target)
2 Blocked shots
2 Aerials won
65 Touches pic.twitter.com/543PcGMgu0
— Forza Juventus (@ForzaJuve2017) 7 December 2018
WORST PLAYER – One of the finest talents in world football, ?Paulo Dybala’s well-renowned technical ability let him down on crucial occasions in the game. His usually imperious control deserted him when presented with a clear volley mid-way through the second half, and was also guilty of firing over in the opening minutes of the game.
With ?Cristiano Ronaldo the new star of the team and Allegri preferring Mandzukic’s work-rate defensively, Dybala was the forward sacrificed by Allegri when Juventus took the lead.
The Argentine’s look at being substituted said it all.
Key Talking Point
After following up a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Tottenham in the Champions League with a stalemate against Roma (in which they led twice), all eyes were on how ?Inter would respond in yet another crunch fixture.
Spalletti’s side started brightly in the first half but were left to rue missing a couple of very clear opportunities when Mandzukic scored the winner. With the sides below them breathing down their neck in the race for a Champions League place, Inter’s defeat here has opened up an opportunity for city rivals Milan and surprise package Torino to close the gap.
Starting XI: Handanovic (7); Vrsaljko (6), Skriniar (7), Miranda (6), Asamoah (5); Gagliardini (6), Brozovic (8), Mario (7); Politano (7), Perisic (6), Icardi (6).
Substitutes: Valero (6), Keita (6), Martinez (5).
STAR MAN – Part of the Croatia team that reached the World Cup final last summer, Marcelo Brozovic’s reputation pales into comparison with fellow international compatriots Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. However, against Juventus, the former Dinamo Zagreb man ran the show just like his more illustrious Croatian teammates.
Brozovic was a box-to-box presence, putting in last-ditch blocks on the edge of his own area before driving into the heart of the Juventus midfield with excellent dribbling. In a game against one of the Serie A’s leading playmakers in the Bianconeri’s Miralem Pjanic, there was no doubt Brozovic came out on top.
Brozovic is having a monumental game
— Siavoush Fallahi (@SiavoushF) 7 December 2018
Juventus have the better midfielders on paper but it’s Brozovic who has bossed the midfield in that half. Flawless performance!
— Choupo-Moting (@PeterMutevu) 7 December 2018
WORST PLAYER – Barring his involvement in Gagliardini’s effort in the first half, Inter captain ?Mauro Icardi was marshalled out of the game by veteran defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. The wily Italian centre-backs kept the Nerazzurri talisman in check and cut off all the supply line to the striker.
The Argentine forward became virtually anonymous in the second half and the lack of a focal point meant Inter were forced to retreat well into their own half. This was a night to forget for last season’s joint top-scorer.
Having already qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League, Juventus will look to secure top spot ahead of Manchester United when they travel to Switzerland to face Young Boys.
Following that, Juventus will return to Serie A action when they face tricky ties against high-flying Torino and rivals AS Roma.
Unlike their Turin counterparts, the Nerazzurri’s path into the last 16 of the Champions League is far less straightforward. After their defeat to Spurs at Wembley last month, the north London side now have the upper-hand heading into the final round of fixtures.
However, Luciano Spalletti’s side know that with the Italians facing bottom of the group PSV, and Spurs facing a daunting trip to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona, qualification from the group stage remains a very realistic dream.