Juventus continue mini-recovery with 1-0 win over in form Inter...
Alessandro Matri was the Bianconeri hero, planting a firm header past Julio Cesar on the half hour to ensure his side would climb two places in the Serie table to sixth, while also putting a large dent in Inter's hopes of catching Milan.
The first half followed a similar pattern to that of the 0-0 draw at the Giuessepe Meazza back in October, as both sides cautiously felt their way into the match before attempting any adventurous attacking play.
In fact, it took until the 10th minute before either team managed any sort of effort on goal, and even then Luca Toni met Giorgio Chiellini’s inswinging cross with a wayward header which finished well wide of the target.
The chance seemed to bring Juventus to life, however, and they had strong penalty appeals turned down when Ivan Cordoba slid in to whip the ball away from Alessandro Matri’s feet inside the six yard box.
Despite the fact Inter were having the upper hand in terms of possession, their probing and prompting could not find a weakness in Juventus’ two solid banks of four, while the hosts continued to look the more threatening side thanks to their quick counter attacking style.
And it was of little surprise when they took the lead in the 30th minute when Matri escaped Cordoba’s attentions to head Frederik Sorenson’s precise whipped cross beyond the motionless Julio Cesar to make it 1-0.
The half continued in a similar vein but there were no further goalscoring opportunities, never mind goals, and the Old Lady took a precious one-goal lead into the interval.
The second half began at a frantic tempo and both sides passed up chances that were almost identicial to Matri’s opening goal.
In the 49th minute, Giampaolo Pazzini rose highest to meet Maicon’s pin-point centre with a powerful downward header, but Gianluigi Buffon was well positioned and batted the ball away to safety.
Then, four minutes later, it was Milos Krasic’s turn to fire over an inviting cross, and that man Matri again drifted between Inter’s sleepy central defenders to meet the ball. This time he didn’t quite get the necessary direction on his header and the ball skidded inches wide of Julio Cesar’s left-hand post.
Yet, despite this exciting start, the match hit another lull in which both sides were reduced to shots from distance and wild volleys as both attacks struggled to find a way past their opponents’ stubborn resistance.
However, Juventus were almost undone by one of their own players when Samuel Eto’o latched onto Sorenson’s weak backpass to Buffon in the 75th minute. But, to his young right-back’s visible relief, the experienced custodian read the danger and raced from his line to clear.
The Juventus goalkeeper thwarted the Cameroonian with another impressive stop in the 82nd minute, again advancing from his goal to block after Wesley Sneijder had picked out Eto’o’s run with a cute pass.
But he could do little to stop Eto’o from scoring in the 89th minute when Maicon’s fizzed a cross across the face of goal, leaving the number nine with a simple tap in at the back post.
The gods were smiling on Buffon and Juventus tonight, however, as Eto’o somehow managed to fire the ball up against the underside crossbar and out to safety from just four yards.
It was one of the misses of the season, which would have been doubly devastating for Eto’o as it ensured his side would leave Turin empty handed.
Inter will continue to hunt down league leaders Milan when they travel to Florence to face Fiorentina in one of their games in hand on Wednesday evening and then host Cagliari at the San Siro next Saturday.
The Old Lady, on the other hand, have a one-week wait before they return to action at Lecce's Stadio Via del Mare.