TURIN - There are some nights where you think things won't go your way but in the end you're left with a smile on your face. Nights where you’ve got to dig deep and never let up until the last kick of the ball. This was very much one of those occasions for Inter. Simone Inzaghi’s men come away from Turin with all three points worth their weight in gold in the Serie A title race, having been under the cosh in the Allianz Arena.
Hakan Calhanoglu’s first half penalty was enough to claim victory for the Nerazzurri. Inzaghi’s side didn’t offer a vintage performance to be remembered for classy play or chances created, but it was full of character, desire and determination. The team put in a real shift for all 105 minutes played and claimed a monumental victory in one of the biggest games of the season.
Juventus were quick out of the blocks, spurred on by their first full capacity crowd of the season. Max Allegri’s side had Inter against the ropes, and Simone Inzaghi’s men struggled to find their feet. The host’s attacking duo of Dusan Vlahovic and Alvaro Morata caused all kinds of headaches for the Nerazzurri’s back line, who retreated and set their stall out to withstand the onslaught. Despite Milan Skriniar and co’s best efforts Juventus’s attack-minded lineup was hard for the visitors to contain. Paulo Dybala was a menace in finding space between Inter’s defence and attack, and Juventus forced Milan Brozovic and Danilo D’Ambrosio into bailing their side out from a double attempt by the Biaconeri in the 29th minute.
Inter struggled to find a foothold in the match, with many wayward passes, a lack of involvement from their full-backs, and a generally incohesive performance. Their first threat on Juventus’s goal only came in the 32nd minute: decent build-up play down the right flank led to Hakan Calhanoglu getting a shot at goal, but Matthijs de Ligt was on hand to block.
This triggered a change in the direction of the game: better late than never for an Inter side which had been sleepy for the first half an hour but nonetheless had withstood Juventus’s attacks. Nicolo Barella and Denzel Dumfries were both heavily involved as the Nerazzurri tried to penetrate the Bianconeri’s rearguard and it was from a surging run by the Dutchman that Inter won a penalty. After a tense wait while Massimiliano Irrati waited on VAR to make the call it was determined that indeed it would be a spot kick.
Hakan Calhanoglu was tasked with taking one of the Nerazzurri’s biggest penalties of the season. While the Turk’s effort was easily parried by Wojciech Szczesny in the resulting goalmouth scramble the ball somehow ended up in the net as an own goal. Yet the referee ruled it out and ordered a retake; not for anything which occurred in that part of the box, rather De Ligt’s incursion into the penalty area before Calhanoglu had made contact with the ball. It was a case of second time lucky for Inter’s number 20, who slotted home and sent the travelling contingent into raptures. Despite happening four minutes into injury time there were five additional minutes added to compensate for the long stoppage, in which Juventus sought in vain to bounce back right away.
The hosts tried to start the second half just as they’d begun the game but found themselves lacking in inspiration, clearly shaken from having gone into the break a goal behind, unable to summon the same attacking threat as in the first 45 minutes.
However the Bianconeri were still threatening through Vlahovic who was ever ready to take advantage of anything Inzaghi’s men conceded him. Marcelo Brozovic, who back in the starting line-up put in a typically great performance, helped Inter hold steady. While the Nerazzurri found it hard to really threaten in the attacking third the outlet offered by Nicolo Barella provided them with relief as they tried to take the sting out of Juventus’s momentum. The best chance of the second period came to substitute Denis Zakaria, whose break into the centre and attempt on goal forced Samir Handanovic into an impressive stop as he turned the ball onto the post.
It was a key moment in the match and led the hosts to perhaps believing it just wasn’t to be their day. Juventus then resulted to long balls into the box and found little joy in this approach. Inzaghi rung the changes to freshen up his side, bringing on Arturo Vidal, Joaquin Correa, Matteo Darmian, and Roberto Gagliardini, shoring up the ship and further dampening Juventus's hopes. Inter even had good opportunities to seal the victory through Vidal and Correa attempts but failed to capitalise on these chances and were left hanging on right until the end. The Nerazzurri withstood endless crosses until the 96th minute with Alessandro Bastoni, Milan Skriniar, and Danilo D’Ambrosio repelling everything that came their way.
So Inter did it: they beat Juventus away from home, and now sit on 63 points. It’s been a tough few months but the Nerazzurri have just reminded everyone that they’re the same force from earlier in the campaign, and will be in this until the bitter end.
Juventus 0-1 Inter (HT 0-1)
Scorers: Calhanoglu (I)
JUVENTUS (4-2-3-1): 1 Szczesny; 6 Danilo, 4 De Ligt, 3 Chiellini, 12 Alex Sandro (2 De Sciglio 73); 27 Locatelli (28 Zakaria 34), 25 Rabiot (5 Arthur 85); 11 Cuadrado ( 20 Bernardeschi 85), 10 Dybala, 9 Morata (18 Kean 73); 7 Vlahovic.
Unused substitutes: 23 Pinsoglio, 36 Perin, 19 Bonucci, 24 Rugani.
Coach: Massimiliano Allegri.
INTER (3-5-2): 1 Handanovic; 33 D'Ambrosio, 37 Skriniar, 95 Bastoni; 2 Dumfries (36 Darmian 59), 23 Barella, 77 Brozovic (5 Gagliardini 77), 20 Calhanoglu (22 Vidal 77), 14 Perisic; 9 Dzeko (18 Gosens 90), 10 Lautaro (19 Correa 59).
Substitutes: 97 Radu, 6 De Vrij, 7 Sanchez, 8 Vecino, 13 Ranocchia, 32 Dimarco, 88 Caicedo.
Coach: Simone Inzaghi.
Booked: Lautaro (I), Rabiot (J), Locatelli (J), Alex Sandro (J), Cuadrado (J), Skriniar (I), Perisic (I), Calhanoglu (I)
Time added on: 9, 6.
Assistant referees: Ranghetti, Vivenzi.
Fourth official: Ghersini.
VAR: Mazzoleni, Passeri.