Inter 100% domestic record finally came to an end as they were defeated by Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus side in an encapsulating encounter.
Paulo Dybala gave Juventus the lead after four minutes, before Lautaro Martinez levelled with a penalty on eighteen minutes. An end to end game followed, with both sides wasting chances, before substitute Gonzalo Higuain struck ten minutes from time to give Juventus the three points.
Romelu Lukaku returned up front for Inter for the suspended Alexis Sanchez, whilst Danilo D’Ambrosio was preferred at right back to Antonio Candreva.
Sarri sprung a surprise in his selection, opting for Paulo Dybala over Gonzalo Higuain, whilst Federico Bernardeschi came in for Aaron Ramsey.
What many thought was a tactical gamble from Sarri was in fact an excellent reaction to Inter’s main defensive weakness through the opening weeks this season. Early in games, they have looked to press high and play a high defensive line, which has left them susceptible to quick counter attacks.
By playing Dybala over Higuain, Juventus were quickly able to capitalise on this, as the Argentine fired home after four minutes to give his side the lead.
Cristiano Ronaldo dropped deep in between the lines of the Inter midfield and defence, pulling De Vrij with him, subsequently creating the space for Dybala to run into and make the most of.
Left isolated 1 v 1, Skriniar wasn’t able to get close enough to the Argentine, who took the shot early, catching out Handanovic and giving Juve the lead. It is worth noting that a careless pass in the build up from D’Ambrosio also contributed to this, as the Inter midfield had pushed up, and this allowed Juventus the space to break into as the midfield was out of shape.
The worries at the back were once again on show after eight minutes, as Ronaldo continued to drift wide in the spaces vacated by D’Ambrosio on attack. Receiving a long ball over the top, he was able to isolate the centre back 1 v 1.
Relishing the opportunity to run at Godin, he beat him with ease, cutting inside onto his preferred right foot before crashing his shot against the bar.
This was a tactic Juventus looked to use throughout the first half, as the spaces behind vacated by D’Ambrosio and Asamoah allowed the two Juventus attackers to drift wide, rather than act as a conventional forward, to receive the ball.
The heat maps of the two Juventus attackers (below) show the average positions they looked to adopt throughout the first half, and it is in particular Ronaldo’s drifting to the left side which stands out, as he looked to target the least mobile of Inter’s three central defenders, Diego Godin.
Inter were able to bounce back within fifteen minutes, as they utilised the flanks well to create an overload out wide, a tactic that has served them well throughout the opening stages of the season. With Juventus opting for a narrow 4-3-1-2, they were able to utilise the spare man out wide, with Barella and Sensi looking to drift wide and create 2 v 1’s.
This was integral for the goal, as Barella used the dummy run out wide (shown below) before crossing to Martinez, who forced the handball from De Ligt. Martinez subsequently slotted home the penalty, and left the game well poised at 1-1.
Despite this goal, Inter struggled to create the wide overloads that have served them well, and this is shown by the influence maps below. Helped by the magnificent Pjanic in central midfield for Juventus, Matuidi and Khedira adapted by playing wider than normal, stopping the supply line from Barella and Sensi to the wing backs.
Sensi’s injury after 33 minutes disrupted Inter’s rhythm as Vecino took time to settle, and as a result Juventus gained control of the first half late on, having the better chances.
As touched on above, Sensi’s injury disrupted Inter as they lost their main attacking link point between midfield and attack. Topping the final third passes in the first half for Inter, he was linking well with Asamoah and providing a strong wide outlet.
Another Ronaldo chance after 52 minutes sprung Conte into a tactical change, with Godin replaced by Bastoni, who impressed against Sampdoria the week before.
Ronaldo’s movement and free role had given Godin a torrid time, and as shown by the influence maps from the first half, this had forced Godin to sit much deeper than the rest of the back three, distorting a normally rigid backline.
However, this didn’t immediately stem the flow of the Juventus attack, as Dybala’s chance after 55 minutes was a warning for things to come.
Drifting in from the left wing this time, he was able to get in behind the static Inter back line, before seeing his shot saved. This once again highlighted the problems that the Inter defence have when run at with pace, as well as the communication issues of changing the backline during the game.
The hour mark saw Sarri make a double change which swung the game in favour of Inter for the coming twenty minutes. Replacing Bernardeschi and Khedira, Higuain and Bentancur were brought on as he looked to create a focal point up top.
Although Bernardeschi had been poor, he was contributing enough defensively to help stop Brozovic from playing out from the back and allowing Inter to control the ball. As a result, Dybala wasn’t able to contribute the same defensive work, whilst Higuain’s movement wasn’t as effective.
As shown below, this Brozovic subsequently completed 38 of 43 passes in the second half, the most of any player on the pitch, as Inter dominated the ball (55% possession). However, they struggled to make this dominance pay on the ball bar a penalty shout for Lukaku and a deflected shot from Vecino, and were ultimately made to pay by Higuain.
The Juventus winner came after 80 minutes, as a result of some patient build up play. As shown below, the initial Inter shape was good, however Ronaldo’s movement began to upset the defence, as he once again dropped off into the space between defence and midfield, with the deepest of the three central midfielders Brozovic caught higher up than he would’ve liked.
As he receives the ball, Juve were able to get runners beyond.
Bastoni as a result ended up too high up from Higuain for a split second, allowing the Argentine to peel off and roll into the space behind.
Caught static by this movement, it allowed Higuain enough space to take an excellent first touch, before firing home. It was an excellent move from Juventus, once again brought about by Ronaldo’s excellent play between the lines of attack and defence, as well as Higuain’s awareness in and around the 18 yard box.
The increased tempo of the attack also caught the Inter backline out, and similar to the midweek defeat against Barcelona, they were undone by a slick passing move.
One of Inter’s main issues throughout the match, and in particular the second half, was how well Juventus stopped the utilisation of the flanks as an attacking option, the outlet that has served them so well throughout the season so far.
Shown below from the influence map, just as in the first half, Asamoah and D’Ambrosio were forced deeper than normal. This was down to a combination of both being occupied by Ronaldo’s movement, as well as the pacey full backs of Sandro and Cuadrado forcing them to be more reserved.
The missing link of Sensi also didn’t help, and Inter’s midfield became far too narrow, isolating the wing backs as they tried to deal with the influential Pjanic, as well as the ever industrious Matuidi. Pjanic’s defensive work also stood out, completing 10 ball recoveries and 2 tackles.
Inter did try to adapt to this by attacking centrally, however Lukaku was under par, with his hold up play and decision making on the ball often questionable. As Inter looked to get runners beyond the Belgian to counter-act the lack of play out wide, he was often wasteful, and this was the missing link behind Inter’s attacks.
Martinez once again impressed, not afraid to drive on the ball and stretch the defence (completing 3/6 take ons), however he often lacked support when in the final third, and this will need to be an area Conte needs to address in the coming weeks.
A draw would’ve been a fair result, however Juventus’ individual brilliance once again shone through just as Barcelona’s did on Wednesday night at the Camp Nou.
A trip to Sassuolo awaits after the international break, as Inter look to bounce back before a huge Champions League game at home to Dortmund the following week.