The end of any dream is sadly inevitable and while you may do everything in your power to not let go of it, the best you could manage is only delay the unavoidable. End, it must and so it will. Despite going 49 Serie A games unbeaten with an incredible persistence, everybody even remotely connected with Juventus, deep down their hearts were aware it could not go on forever.
The last thing they’d have wished however is the run being brought to an end by the opposition that finally did. FC Internazionale – the highly despised, the bitter rivals of Juventus entered their den, delivered a thoroughly splendid performance, paved their way against all odds and magnificently took away all three points breaking the Juventus hearts.
The start with which Juventus exploded stamping their authority on the proceedings within the very first minute of the game would have given everyone the impression that Inter were in there for one long night. An Arturo Vidal strike on the eighteenth second of the game put Inter on the back-foot.
The erroneous call that failed to adjudge Asamoah offside during the build-up only remains a subject for retrospective dissection. On the field, one must act professionally enough to respond rather than react and which is exactly what Inter did. They were not to be strangled by the wrongly allowed goal or even by their own being disallowed for Palacio being ruled offside, though only marginally ahead of the last defender.
Their anguish was only multiplied when Stephan Lichtsteiner was unbelievably spared from the second booking after his tackle on Palacio that may well have threatened Ryan Shawcross for being superseded off his perch. However, feeling disheartened was the last order of the day and there’s a reason a man of Massimo Moratti’s shrewdness has entrusted a certain Andrea Stramaccioni with that responsibility, despite no prior managerial experience to show for at the senior level.
Ever since Stramaccioni took over the ship that was left almost sinking by then manager Claudio Ranieri, there has been an instant injection of vigour in this Inter side. Interestingly, Stramaccioni is younger than the club captain Javier Zanetti who continues to find a regular spot in the manager’s starting eleven playing various roles. Does he age at all? Well, there are reasons to believe he defies science.
On the night however, leading his team into one of the most high-profile fixtures of Europe, Zanetti’s was perhaps the most important role on the pitch for Inter. Stramaccioni had most certainly done his homework and was clearly aware of the potential damage the bombarding runs of Asamoah down the left flank are capable of causing. Since Inter deploy a narrow three-man defence in the backline, it was left to Zanetti to dampen the impact of one of the most menacing wingers in the league and boy did he!
Zanetti has arguably made a living out of performing to his best in the biggest of games and this was another perfect advertisement of his ability even at an age people generally tend to either enjoy an extension to their playing career in America or hang up their boots before being disgracefully asked to. Another veteran Argentine who’s second only to Zanetti in being synonymous to current Inter side is Esteban Cambiasso.
Having represented some of the biggest sides in Europe, Cambiasso has got all it takes to lead a midfield that is asked to negate the impact of a man called Andrea Pirlo. With Vidal being instinctively more attacking than usual and Marchisio too tending to push forward to be at the receiving end of a magical Pirlo ball, the Italian maestro was often left isolated in the centre of the park and the continuous pressing from Cambiasso ensured he didn’t find the required time on the ball and was forced to pass the ball prematurely on a number of instances. Once the equaliser was found, Inter only grew in confidence and looked more and more likely to find the winner. The substitutions introduced by Stramaccioni were instantly impactful and leaving the home crowd shattered, Inter delivered a commanding performance in the second half mounting a very strong title challenge now.
Despite the loss, Juventus still remain a point clear on top of the table but it will be very interesting to see how much this result influences their season from here on. Inter on the other hand, are on a nine match winning streak in all competition and having maintained their hundred percent away record in the league, their confidence should be sky high. With no participation in the Champions League this season, they are certainly a wise bet for the title, come the summer.
Exhilarated however, was not only the blue half of Milan this weekend. An hour before the Derby d’Italia was kicked off, AC Milan had given their fans a reason or two to go wild in celebrations. A dominating performance at San Siro that resulted in the 5-1 drubbing of visiting Chievo has now safely brought Milan back into the top half of the table. The talking point of the game was the sheer brilliance in passing and penetration that was on display from the home side and fortunately it was translated abundantly in goals too.
Stephan El Shaarawy, the best player this season for Milan was not the only one to hog limelight over the weekend and that should surely relieve him off the immense pressure to single-handedly sail Milan home week after week. Montolivo, Emanuelson, Bojan and Pazzini all scored a goal each and Milan were the better side by a distance. Bojan was particularly impressive and you may believe the talks of extending his loan spell from Barcelona are only consequential.
Even on a weekend so highly anticipated with the engrossing Juve-Inter game, Roma managed to grab enough eyeballs with another resplendent entertainer delivered by Zeman’s men in their 4-1 victory at home over Palermo. Going by their two games during the last week, it’d be very obvious of you to be scared if you’re a Roma fan the moment the team takes the lead. Repeatedly against Udinese and Parma, not only Roma squandered the cushion but went on to concede enough to award the opposition all the three points.
That however was not to be for the third time in running as Roma were pretty determined on Sunday to hold on to the precious lead. Skipper Francesco Totti once again delivered a master class performance and was the first to register his name on the score-sheet. The ever improving Erik Lamela and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo both added to their visitors’ woes. The story of the night was substitute Mattia Destro. The 21 year old, upon scoring his debut goal for the Giallorossi could not hold back his emotions and his celebrations earned him his second yellow which sees him out of the derby next weekend. The shocking development however is the club is rumoured to be ready to cash in on midfielder Daniele De Rossi should the right offer fall in place any time soon. The timing of this news might not be in the best interest of Roma with the derby fixture lining up next.
Speaking of the derby, arch rivals Lazio are experiencing torrid times ahead of the big game. With another loss, this time away to Catania, Lazio are only 2 points above Roma on the 5th place now and the neighbours from the Capital may well overtake them with a win in the derby. The manner of the defeat however should bother Petkovic much more as the Biancocelesti were humbled 4-0 by the Sicilians who are comfortably placed 7th on the table after the win. Lazio have accumulated only a single point in their last three games and Petkovic does need to find a quick fix immediately.
Another team that has been undergoing a dip in form is Walter Mazzarri led Napoli. After their midweek defeat to Atalanta, Napoli were again scrappy at home as they faced Torino. An early lead courtesy a Cavani goal was protected for 90 minutes but at no point in the game the Partenopei were convincing with their performance. A defensive error from Salvatore Aronica during the stoppage time led to the Torino equalizer and Napoli dropped two very important points at San Paolo. Defensive structure at the Naples based club has never been the greatest and it’s high time Mazzarri looked into it.
While the relatively bigger clubs are making all the news these days, very few have noticed the steady progress Fiorentina have been making. The Viola have arguably been the team to watch out in the season so far. Under Vincenzo Montella, they are playing wonderful football and the results pretty much testify this. With their third consecutive win, Fiorentina have now leapfrogged Lazio to claim the 4th place on the table. On Sunday, they demolished a travelling Cagliari 4-1 and probably delivered their best performance of the season. Gonzalo, Jovetic, Toni and Cuadrado kept adding to the misery of their opponents who after their bright start to the season are now languishing in the bottom half. For Fiorentina, Jovetic, as expected was wonderful against Cagliari but to the surprise of many, Luca Toni is enjoying a reasonably decent run upon his return to the top flight in Italy.
Like Javier Zanetti, it seems Antonio Di Natale too refuses to age and has solely shouldered the entire responsibility of keeping his team afloat amidst the turbulent times. Trailing to Bologna away from home, Di Natale found the equalizer in the 73rd minute and made sure Udinese earned at least a point from the game.
In another shocker this weekend, Pescara registered only their third win from the season beating Parma 2-0. Stuck at the bottom of the table, Siena too shocked Genoa in the 1-0 defeat of the latter but that hardly changes the position on the table for either of the teams. Ciro Ferrara, it seems, will be out of his job pretty soon. After a spectacular start to the season, Sampdoria have now lost six games in a row and find themselves only three points above the relegation zone. With a 1-2 win over them, Atalanta moved to the 9th place on the table.
As many as 34 goals were scored this weekend in Serie A making it one of the most exciting ones in the current season. With the Rome Derby and Milan hosting Fiorentina next weekend, the excitement levels look certain not to drop.