Buffon – Was kept fairly busy, especially in the first half and late on in the second. Yet had no major saves to make, for he was in the right place at the right time to comfortably thwart the best efforts of our opponents. Composed and alert throughout. 7
Bonucci – Relatively quiet, yet stood firm to face a vibrant, effective offensive phalanx of players and slung a few quality balls forward. 6.5
A club legend…Kaiser Chiellini was a Titan against our hated enemy.
Chiellini – Outstanding performance from the reborn centurion in our ranks. He was ubiquitous at the back, full blooded in too many challenges to count, cunning with the officials and a natural born warrior and leader throughout the tie. This is the kind of game which brings out his best and he was simply indomitable, never offering the nerazzuri an inch. Crunching, marking, maiming, complete and total commitment in every single tackle, great pace, sensational reading of the game…A true masterclass of defending from start to finish. Close to perfect! 9
Lichsteiner – Fresh from signing a welcome extension to his contract, the Swiss locomotive held the flank down well, got forward to support the attack and used all his experience to avoid any space deep for Perisic and D’Ambrosio. Was angry to come off, yet it turns out Allegri thought he was injured! 7
Sandro – Showed some gorgeous touches on the ball, he can be superb in tight situations. Still yet to return to full sharpness but this was a gutsy showing from the Brazilian. He proved he is far more than merely an offensive talent. 7
Khedira – Perhaps his finest showing in our colours. Big Sami was immense on the night, constantly shifting between screening the defence and making inroads up top. Unlucky not to see his attacking endeavour lead to a goal. He is really coming into top form in this new formation and was one of the most technically potent players on a field littered with talent.8.5
Pjanic – Miralem is learning to scrap, to fight fang and claw in the middle of the park and to launch attacks from deep. He fared well enough and is finally showing some grit to augment his marvellous technique on the ball. 7
Cuadrado – Put in a couple of decent crosses, made some terrible decisions with the ball at his feet, was booked for an amusingly wretched hack and yet…his goal was world class. A strike worthy of winning any game at any level. Credit to the speedy fiend where it is due. I can forgive him everything when he produces a moment of magic such as this one, which even two keepers combined would have had no chance to save – (the dance at the end summed him up…a brilliant freak of the highest order…and my Colombian housemate tells me, which came as no surprise, that unlike the born with the silver spoon in the mouth Falcao, Juan comes from the same poverty stricken realm as none other than Asprilla…which explains why like Fausto, Juan often appears to still be playing on dirt or concrete with his mates after work!) 9
Dybala – Was unlucky with two great efforts in the first half, almost succeeded in supplying Higuain with an assist in the second and fought hard throughout, often dropping deep to give the defence an outlet. He continues to mature. And added a hug to the handshake when he came off for good measure. 7
Mandzukic – Came close with two headers, other than which his game was mainly defensive in the midfield. Used his strength intelligently, played many smart balls to on-running colleagues and kept running and fighting till the death. It will be interesting what happens when Pjaca appears and carves the opposition apart. One offers defensive zeal and decent offensive threat, the other huge potency in the final third. 7
Higuain – Once again showed his game is far more expansive than merely a top drawer finisher, by running between the lines, leading the attack, displaying great technique and invention when faced with numerous opponents blocking his way to goal. Came close in the second half to adding to his impressive tally for the season. 7.5
Make no mistake, Inter were in top form. They pushed us relentlessly in the opening 45 and came back strongly late on. They also created 5 presentable chances to our 9. Well organised, full of confidence and technically powerful. No team has managed to conjure as many chances against us of late. We knew they would come to Turin all guns blazing, and in the end we outgunned them and deserved our victory.
For some, myself included, this game means as much as any game will throughout the campaign. And I feel wonderful, for part of my heart is beating loudly and proudly and I will assuredly bore scores of people on the morrow, and make them watch not just Cuadrado’s goal, but also his dance as I try to mimic his alien moves on the impromptu dance floor. Juve are once again, bringing me so much joy. Thanks Max!
Slender as the scoreline may seem, we undoubtedly created the better of the chances, hit the bar twice and Handanovic was far the busier keeper. His saves from Higuain and Mandzukic late on were classy and kept the result respectable.
Of the two moments which Pioli referred to as penalties…
The first seemed a tussle (one of many) between Icardi and Chiellini and Lichsteiner pulling the shirt of a player who was pulling his shirt. The Inter players made no case to the referee, yet Pioli knows better eh!
The second appeared a risky but legitimate challenge by Mario which took the ball in the box.
Neither seemed anywhere close to a stone wall penalty in my eyes, or those of the ref and his fellow officials.
It was a very entertaining game, of arguably the top two sides of the league. As Allegri said during the post match press conference. We are lucky Inter had a slow start to the season, for they do look solid in every area of the field. No obvious weaknesses and boundless strength throughout. Pioli has done exceptional work since appearing at the helm in November. And whilst I deeply despise many of the Inter hierarchy, I am content to see them regain their mettle and become a formidable outfit. When they qualify for the champions league and strengthen in the Summer they will perhaps become our closest challengers for the 7th scudetto next term. Would be even more welcome if AC upped their game in turn.
We need games like this one. Which further cements the new system and equally importantly inspires the grinta from within the ranks. It is something which has been missing for much of the season, and perhaps part of the reason why – alongside the steady injury woes – is the lack of finding ourselves truly pushed, forced to react and to fight for victory.
I was impressed with both sides. The game was a startling spectacle throughout, with only the first twenty minutes of the second half showing one side fully in control. And as the match wore on the tackles became a touch more menacing yet Rizzoli stood fairly firm and offered both sides the same allowances.
At one stage with an hour gone we had a line of yellow cards across the field from left to right – Mandzukic, Khedira, Pjanic, Cuadrado – and I was roaring for Allegri to make some changes. Yet when they came, I was left shaking my head.
Claudio has barely played of late, Alves had been out for aeons and Rugani, the only match sharp player was brought on very late in the day. It was risky from Il Mister, and by my reckoning close to bizarre. Asamoah? Rincon? Sturaro? Pjaca? Why not bring on those presently up to speed to add impetus? Yet no…too obvious. too simple. Instead he decided to throw two players into the deep end who were at best rusty. Neither impressed.
Overall it was a hard fought, well merited victory. Which could well provide added wind in our sails, as we approach now three eminently winnable games before the Porto tie.
The highlight of the game for me personally was Chiellini positioning himself for a throw late on, directly next to Pioli, the Inter chief complaining of time wasting, whilst Giorgio placed him as the reason why time was been wasted, with a mocking smile and shrug of those broad shoulders. Comedy at its finest.
We must surely now be growing in confidence. Just as the squad as a whole is moving for the first time this campaign towards full availability. Everything appears to be falling into place. And I see no reason whatsoever to ponder changing the system for Porto. We have nothing to fear of any side and are improving week on week.
A job very well done indeed by Allegri and the lads. And I thank Juan for a wondrous gift for my 38th birthday tomorrow. The haphazard Colombian has made me this happy…
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