Once again, the most anticipated fixture of the round came through in terms of drama, so Inter-Juventus is a natural pick for game of the week.
Inter came into the match looking to extend his two-game winning streak and keep up with Roma, which had defeated Chievo earlier on Saturday. Juventus were trying to bounce back after the tough loss in last week’s big match and put pressure on Napoli, which would play on Sunday versus Fiorentina.
Luciano Spalletti made a couple of changes to the lineup he was using recently, putting Antonio Candreva back in for Yann Karamoh and inserting Matias Vecino for Borja Valero, who was not 100%. Massimiliano Allegri, whose overly defensive game plan against Napoli came under heavy scrutiny, chose Juan Cuadrado as right back in a tone-setting move, deployed Mario Mandzukic instead of Paulo Dybala and benched Medhi Benatia for Daniele Rugani and Andrea Barzagli.
The Bianconeri this time had a much more aggressive attitude right from the get-go and immediately tried to take control of the game. The Beneamata suffered an almost lethal one-two blow within two minutes a quarter of hour into the first half. First, Cuadrado found a wide-open Douglas Costa in the left portion of the box in the action following a corner kick and the Brazilian winger had time to control, take aim and put it past Samir Handanovic with a cross-shot. Then, Matias Vecino was shown a red card for stomping onto Mandzukic’s ankle. However, the guests did not go for the kill despite the very advantageous situation and the result stayed the same through the break.
The game turned on its head at the beginning of the second half and Inter showed great character. As he always does, Mauro Icardi scored the equalizer connecting on a sharp free kick by Joao Cancelo, where the opposing back-line completely mistimed the offside trap and left him unguarded. Shortly thereafter, Gonzalo Higuain missed an easy one, hitting the external part of the net from angled position after gliding past Handanovic. However, the goal galvanized the squad and the crowd and the Nerazzurri gained the upper hand. Thirteen minutes later, Ivan Perisic duped Cuadrado and sent in a low cross that Barzagli deflected in his own goal.
Allegri had already put in Dybala for Sami Khedira after the one-one goal, then inserted Federico Bernardeschi for a hobbling Mandzukic to try to mount an all-out assault. The Bianconeri put great pressure on the enemies’ defence, but Inter almost scored again as Icardi narrowly failed to latch onto a perfect Candreva feed on a counter.
Spalletti went perhaps with an overly conservative lineup, taking out the Argentinian centre-forward to put in one more defender, Davide Santon, but Juventus levelled just two minutes later. Cuadrado and Dybala combined on the right flank and the Colombian, deep into the box, uncorked a robust conclusion that found the body of Milan Skriniar for a decisive deflection that beat his goalie. The Bianconeri continued pushing and Gonzalo Higuain netted the game-winning goal at the 89th minute, heading in a sharp free kick by Dybala.
Juventus wound up earning three full points over Napoli in a round that did not look favourable on paper and are now back in the driver’s seat in the Scudetto race. Inter lost ground on both Roma and Lazio and are now four points behind a Champions League spot.
The goal scorers Gonzalo Higuain, Douglas Costa and Mauro Icardi were the top earners in the fantasy game, with four points each. Dybala got two, Cuadrado one for the assists, as the Colombian was also booked.
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