By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer
The half-century beckoned for Juventus, but they could not quite get over the line. After 49 games unbeaten it was their big rivals Inter, of all teams, that brought their dreams of a record streak to an end. But more than that, the Nerazzurri appear to have opened up what was threatening to be a one-horse race for this season’s Scudetto.
With easily their most impressive win under Andrea Stramaccioni, and the one that puts down a marker like no other since their Champions League success in Madrid in May 2010, Inter are now just a point behind Juve and are real title hopefuls once more. On a night when they could have bowed their heads and cried foul after feeling the rough end of a big offside call just a quarter of a minute into the game, they instead fought back like tigers to get the result they deserved.
Arturo Vidal’s opener just 18 seconds into the game should undoubtedly have been ruled out after Kwadwo Asamoah strayed offside, but the very fact the Ghanaian was allowed so much space immediately from the kick-off suggested it may be a long night for the Nerazzurri defence. And, as the Old Lady constantly threatened to extend their lead over the next 10 minutes, a landslide home win could easily have been on the cards.
|MATCH FACTS | Juventus 1-3 Inter
But that is where Stramaccioni has built a very different kind of Inter side. This Beneamata is one which makes the most of what it has. And by midway through the first half they were arguably the better side. They again seemed to be shortchanged as Stephan Lichtsteiner – already booked – went in late and high on Rodrigo Palacio, but received nothing by way of reprimand. Once again they stood strong and continued the fight, and in the second half they dominated large spells of the game.
First, Claudio Marchisio pulled back Diego Milito as he moved to mop up Esteban Cambiasso’s miskick from a free-kick, with referee Paolo Tagliavento quickly pointing to the spot. Milito’s conversion levelled the scores, and soon after he was celebrating again. Substitute Fredy Guarin ran powerfully into space left behind by Giorgio Chiellini and sent in a fierce shot which Gianluigi Buffon could only palm to the onrushing Argentine, who finished with deadly aplomb.
The game was so stretched by the end that Juve looked likely to be punished as they sought to preserve their magnificent 18-month-old record, and when Rodrigo Palacio made the most of a breakaway that Yuto Nagatomo somehow managed to keep alive, it was party time for the visiting supporters.
It is Inter’s ninth successive win in all competitions, a club record bettered only by the Nerazzurri of Roberto Mancini’s era, but it also shows that Stramaccioni’s men mean business. They have a very flexible squad, creative movement up front, and a resilience as a unit that few in Serie A can match.
Juventus are still top of Serie A tonight, and rightly remain favourites to carry away the title at the end of the season. But Inter have ensured that a Scudetto race is on the cards this season, and if they continue to put in performances like the one at Juventus Stadium tonight, they could well become champions this term.
It is game on now.