The Jose Mourinho stamp on this Inter Milan team is set. Now more than ever. Strong & well-organized tactics, a determined athletic performance from all players, and a winning mentality: the psychological drive necessary to come out as victors in the ever-difficult Derby d’Italia fixture.
And too bad if the match-winning goal came through a fortunate tap-in by Muntari (receiving an Ibrahimovic pass which, all evidence suggests, was in fact a shot): that is what great teams do. They rake in the wins, and all goals count. Fortuitous or not.
Juventus lost today, but must not be faulted. True, there are now 6 points separating them from their Nerazzurri rivals, but the Bianconeri’s performance had many positive notes (Chiellini and Sissoko above all), and was considerably handicapped by the immediate injury sustained by Tiago in the 2nd minute of play.
(From Gazzetta): Tactically, Jose Mourinho made not one but three surprise changes to his formation. The biggest one, which was totally out of the blue given Mourinho’s statements on the match eve, was his decision to play Adriano right from the start. The other unexpected moves were Marco Materazzi (instead of Burdisso) to play alongside Samuel, and Dejan Stankovic in lieu of Vieira. The French national-team captain would not take the demotion with a kind eye. On the other end, Claudio Ranieri opted not to risk Camoranesi on the right wing, choosing lucky charm Marco Marchionni instead. The former would later substitute the latter in the second half.
The first half was played at a feverishly high, intense pace: Juventus were agile and fleet-footed but couldn’t compete with Inter’s physical superiority in the close-contact game. The Nerazzurri had two missed opportunities in the first half-hour: Stankovic was shut down by Chiellini just as he was about to shoot from very close range, and then Ibrahimovic struck a diagonal shot only inches wide, with all of San Siro up on their feet ready to celebrate. These dangerous chances were the fruit of Bianconeri errors in midfield, cruelly missing the contribution of Tiago who was forced to leave the pitch after a mere minute and a half (sustaining a sprained ankle injury on the abhorrent excuse-for-a-grass-pitch that was San Siro today).
The balance of the match was dictated by the counterpoint play of Ibrahimovic and Del Piero. The Swede was brilliant with his sudden, lightning passes for upcoming attacking teammates, fended off by Manninger in goal. On the other end, Del Piero exchanged passes with Amauri and Nedved and although he always had a player marking him closely (on this note, the physical presence of Materazzi in place of Burdisso was a good move by Mourinho) his opening touches were always a potential source of danger for Inter. Neither player could however provide the key to unlocking a score chance in the first half, which ended on a score of 0-0.
In the second half, Ibrahimovic missed yet another close-range opportunity on Manninger, confirming the “choking” curse seemingly afflicting the Swedish striker. Since his move to Lombardy, Zlatan has not yet scored against his former club, and his scoring unproductivity in big matches was also frustrating Inter from capitalising on their slight game-day superiority.
The game was suddenly to take a turn however. Shortly after the entrance of Mauro Camoranesi in place of Marchionni (min. 70), Molinaro and Legrottaglie crashed into each other as they tried to lay a defensive tackle on Adriano. Suddenly there was a player unmarked in Juve’s defensive set-up, and that player was Sulley Muntari: on the receiving end of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic “pass” (shot), the Ghanaian midfielder had all the time in the world to adjust an open-net shot and put his team in the lead. Manninger, who had stopped to claim a non-existing offside, could even have stopped the shot… if only he had made the attempt. 1-0 Inter.
At this point, Ranieri interrupted the duel between Materazzi and Amauri (a contest easily won by the Italian defender) and brought on Vincenzo Iaquinta. The Bianconeri were now really pushing forward to equalize, but excluding a Del Piero well-placed header (deflected by Julio Cesar) following a corner-kick, Juventus were unable to get themselves up and react effectively. Inter stretched the game through to the full-time whistle, and Mourinho could finally celebrate his first win in the Derby d’Italia.
|GOALSCORERS: 72’ Muntari (I).
| INTER (4-1-3-2): Julio Cesar – Maicon, Materazzi, Samuel, Maxwell – Cambiasso – J.Zanetti, Stankovic (85′ Burdisso), Muntari (89’ Vieira) – Ibrahimovic, Adriano (82’ Cruz). (bench: Toldo, Figo, Quaresma, Crespo). Coach: Mourinho.
| JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Manninger – Grygera, Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Molinaro – Marchionni (70’ Camoranesi), Tiago (3’ Marchisio), Sissoko, Nedved – Del Piero, Amauri (77’ Iaquinta). (bench: Chimenti, Mellberg, De Ceglie, Giovinco). Coach: Ranieri.