Terzo Tempo: A Tale of Two Halves…And Icardi’s.
Juventus vs Inter.
Inter had won a particular kind of Derby d’Italia off the pitch, beating at least Juventus’ competition for Xherdan Shaqiri. Now it was time to fight sul campo for the three points and glory.
The two teams came out with similar shapes. Juventus in their familiar 4-3-1-2, and Inter changing shape slightly to a 4-3-2-1. Inter brought Campagnaro into the right fullback position for his experience to solidify the back line. D’Ambrosio shifted to the left fullback position, and would be the more attacking of the two.
From the start we saw a very high press implemented, with the team staying compact in doing so. This meant a high defensive line as well. Within the first minute that line drew an offsides call. The first few minutes told the tale of the entire first half. Medel won the ball a couple times in the initial throws as the high press forced hashed Bianconeri stabs at the ball in possession. But Juve also found spaces in front of our defense, especially attacking down D’Ambrosio’s flank. They repeatedly attacked down our left side until one such play proved fruitful. A pass from wide into Vidal was expertly backheeled past Gary Medel and crossed low into the careening Carlos Tevez. 1-0 in the 5th minute.
Inter tried to get down the field. Tried. Babilona Khosravi thought she was watching Lecce. Joey Postorino was “reminded of his Reggina days.” Most of the attempts to get down the field were passes down the line that either could not find a fullback or a pass that did find feet down the line, only to be dispossessed by twos and threes of Juventus defenders. Interisti could not find teammates quickly enough. Juventus did not seem as all-conquering as always however. Pogba lost the ball on several occasions early on as Guarin’s physicality proved a surprising challenge for the Frenchman. Pirlo also gave the ball away a few times on easy balls out of his half. Inter was pressing with at least five players in Juve’s half in several instances when Buffon had the ball. Definitely a new identity. Mancini can be proud of this forcing errors out of the league leaders.
When Inter could hold possession, it was usually at the back, and this was truly heart-in-mouth stuff to watch. Kovacic and Kuzmanovic tried several times to dribble past onrushing Juventini to terrifying effect outside our box. Terrifying as in bad. As in why are you trying to dribble past Tevez, Llorente, Marchisio, Vidal, Pogba, and the weight of your own psyche?
As we got towards the 20th minute, the right players were dribbling more in the right places. D’Ambrosio was finding the ball further up the pitch, and was able to put in nearly five cross (attempts) in about three minutes. I’m not going to say any of these were particularly good, but it showed space was being found, and opportunities created. Hernanes also found his feet and was routinely dribbling past players and distributing the ball. Just not very far forward.
Inter was getting down the pitch more, and this meant when we lost the ball we had players in Juventus’ half. Instead of turning backs and retreating, for the most part we kept pressing. This meant we actually won the ball back many times from the Juve midfield. We couldn’t do anything too incredible with it just yet, but we were winning possession back at least. While there were positives, there were also negatives to this. When a team presses high, it does so knowingwhoever is behind that press will get to the clearance, or else. One such instance the player behind the press hashed his touch (JJ) and was let off by a Tevez who decided to take the ball wide instead of attack goal.
On one counter Kovacic had the chance to put Icardi through to goal as Maurito was 1 v 1 with Bonucci or Chiellini. Kova tried a wonder ball in behind the Juve defense. This chance went begging, and remained one of Inter’s best chances until the half. While chances went missing at that end, chances were created like babies in the slums at the other end. Campagnaro tried dribbling past Pogba as he won it near the 18, while Ranocchia mindbogglingly passed straight into Llorente in the way of Juan Jesus under little pressure. Inter was lucky not to concede on many of these chances, and that comes down to the absolute heroics of one Samir Handanovic. He saved from Vidal a couple times in the first half, and one amazing save against an elastico-ing defender bamboozling Pogba. The Slovenian shot stopped miraculously saved a trademark knuckling Pirlo free kick as well. He kept us in the game when we had no right to be in it at that point.
Juventus began to match Inter’s press and Pirlo started dropping between, and even behind the center backs to allow the Bianconeri fullbacks to press up. Kovacic was marked doubly. Things began to look very bleak around the 35′ as Juventus had several corners in a row. Juan Jesus was lucky to get away with an elbow to Chiellini’s face, but it wouldn’t have made him look any different anyway. Poor clearances and mindless tackles against players at the sideline led to showers of crosses that were cleared luckily, or weren’t met by clean shots. To highlight Inter’s most used area of attack, we had four throw in’s back to back via D’Ambrosio up the left side just before halftime.
The two teams came back without subs after halftime. Hernanes kicked off proceedings with a great run beating several players, only to run into a dead end. We kept up the press and this forced throw-ins for us in their half and a corner as well before the 50th minute. Kuzmanovic won a corner, and it was the last of his work as World Champion Lukas Podolski came on for him. He occupied much of the same position, only a little higher up the pitch. He was quickly involved as well when him and D’Ambrosio linked up to create a chance in the Juventus box.
At this point it was apparent that Juventus gave up their high press as slack passes gave Inter possession in dangerous areas. They sat deep ands struck on the counter. This gave Ranocchia headaches as he was forced into races, one of which he was luck to win a foul on as he cleared the ball hopelessly central towards Juventus players. He planted his heels at one point on the line against Pogba which made him easy pickings for the fleet-footed starlet. Where he lacked positional sense (he came off the defensive line towards the center circle many times, leaving dangerous space behind him), he made up in headers. The captain cleared the ball on many corners and crosses and held off the aerial threat of Llorente and Pogba for the most part. Both him and Juan Jesus gave the ball away too much, but they were also under heavy pressure on the direct counter.
Inter looked to have switched to a 4-2-3-1 at this point, with Mancini pushing the team forward. Guarin had a freekick on the stroke of 60 minutes that I remember to be absolutely horrible, dropping 10 yards in front of anyone, not even reaching the 18. D’Ambrosio had a great run that brought him about 28 yards out, but failed to pass to Icardi and was quickly closed down. Godd runs and failures to pass happened a lot. In the 63rd minute Llorente came off and Morata came on. And one minute later, everyone’s most familiar headache Fredy Guarin played a great through ball for Icardi who made use of poor defensive shape. Icardi ran to the outside right and was met with Buffon whom he neatly side-footed past and into the net. I stood up watching the ball roll into the net as I ran in circles around the house screaming, my parents laughing at my hysterics. I’m home for the holidays, and they can hear it loud and clear. 1-1. The Anti-Virus worked again. Five goals in four games against the gobbi and his ninth of the season.
Juventus began to press now, and Pirlo shifted about 10 yards higher up the pitch, putting him in positions to play the final ball. The excited Icardi got a yellow for an elbow just two minutes after scoring, which was his first yellow of the season. What is key to note is that while we had the draw at this point, we kept pressing. We did not sit back, and this seemed to shock the Old Lady. She kept throwing glass bottles at us and tearing up our footballs whenever they landed in her yar…wait, wrong Old Lady.
Morata got a yellow for a dive on 71′ as Ranocchia explained to him what a dive was with hand motions. I laughed. He was strong in the air as Juve looked for the winning goal. Podolski made several good runs down the line, and looked lively since coming on. He put a couple good crosses in, which was something we missed all season. D’Ambrosio got a yellow for losing his footing and brushing the ballerina Lichtsteiner. At this point, Kovacic came into the game much more. He showed to the ball and was playing 1-2’s often as we looked to hold possession and get into good areas. Pogba missed a good chance off a corner on 76′ which was the only big chance they got directly off a corner. In the 77th Vidal came off and Pereyra came on.
Both Inter and Juventus were a comedy of errors on the ball at back. Within one minute both teams lost possession from their center backs and attacked back and forth. JJ took Pogba down after he danced past half our team and earned a yellow. The play after regaining possession still haunts me. Poldi countered as Inter attacked 2 v 2. His cross met Icardi at the back post who could not steer past Buffon and sliced it out as he slid to meet the ball.
Inter took ascendancy in the final 10 minutes. Guarin took a couple long shots that weren’t too far off. I know, crazy. He did waste chances to do better things with the ball however. That same man won the ball well and let Icardi through on goal again, as the Argentine fired to force a save from Buffon. Medel gained a yellow for bringing a man down tactically as Hernanes left the field for Osvaldo. This move really surprised me. Mancini REALLY was going for the win, away at the league leaders Juventus. He had smelled the blood in the water, and was going all in. Man I missed this spirit. Not to mention you could hear CN69 at many points throughout the match. Their “B” choreography was maintained throughout the match hilariously. Our own Sia Fallahi and Danny Hansen were present screaming themselves hoarse in the away corner. Well done lads.
One minute later, Chiellini pulled a Ranocchia and passed the ball right into Icardi’s feet. Initially, there was a 2 v 1 against Chiellini with Osvaldo running out right. But Icardi held off on putting him through, and jogged towards goal…and jogged, and jogged, until the numerical advantage disappeared, but a positional one reappeared for Osvaldo as he peeled off the right into a great position in the Juve box. Not to mention Podolski running to his left. But not to be disturbed, Icardi took a touch inside before letting go a woeful effort that wouldn’t have found a second goal were it stacked on top of the existing one. Osvaldo ran towards him screaming, and only Guarin could hold him back as Icardi mouthed him off sulking away. I felt for Osvaldo here. He always makes great runs, never to be found. To put it one way I read from my mate Parth Gawarikar; “Icardi won us a point, but lost us two more.”
RIGHT after this, as Juve got down the field, Kovacic hurled himself two footed at Lichsteiner and was send off with a straight red in the 87th minute. You could tell by the look on his face he feared he had lost the match for Inter. Inter held off multiple attacks and almost countered a couple times in the next few minutes. Icardi came off and M’Vila came on to shore up the midfield. More attacks were thwarted. Juventus gained one corner whose header was saved by Handanovic pushing it on towards the by line away from goal. The ensuing cross was met by another game-saving great Handanovic recovery to hold onto the ball as the clock ran down.
Full time: 1-1
Handanovic, D’Ambrosio, Guarin (at times he was vital, and at times he was…Guarin), Hernanes, Podolski, and Icardi stood out for me. Oh Icardi. As much as he frustrated me at the end, I screamed “ANTI JUVENTUS!” too many times to hate the kid. He’s just that as well, a youngster. The goalkeeper takes man of the match award in my book. Absolute stalwart. And did I hear Roma wants him? HA! Hahaha. Good one. Podolski had a great introduction to the league as he got mouthy at times, showed good control and poise, got in good positions, and always looked assured, and that’s after training for barely two days. I think he’s going to do great with us.
I thought Mancini can take great pride in this performance, as his half-time team talk was obviously important. This kind of spirit has been lacking for a very long time. The team in 11th place took the game to the dynastic champions and league leaders away, and could have won the game a couple times. We went for the jugular when we could have defended and played cautiously after tying. Had it not been for his pressing game plan, we would not have had a sniff in this match, especially after our woeful first half. I can see the Inter that Mancio is looking to build and I am nothing but optimistic. I love this new identity. Pazza Inter is back. I think with (can I say it?) Shaqiri in this team he’s building, we are shooting straight for third and no less. If you offered me the result before the game, I would grab it and hold onto it with two hands and three legs.
Anyway. Back to the insanity that is the mercato. Till Genoa this weekend, ciao a tutti!
PS: Yes, we are all biting nails until tomorrow for news of King Kaiser Mbret Xherdan as well…
How did you feel about the result? What about the performance? Comment below!