Inter welcomed Juventus at the Stadio San Siro tonight for another tension-filled Derby of Italy. Nerazzurri coach Jose Mourinho fielded a 4-1-3-2 formation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and, surprisingly enough, Adriano up front, while his Juve colleague Claudio Ranieri went for the usual 4-4-2 line up with red-hot captain Alessandro Del Piero and Amauri in attack.
The first attack of the match was Inter’s, as Ibrahimovic made a good run on the left wing before crossing the ball in, and there were soft calls for a penalty as Giorgio Chiellini seemed to touch the ball inside the area, but the referee said play on.
In the third minute, Juve were forced to make their first substitution, as Tiago went down injured and was replaced by Claudio Marchisio.
At the start it was the visitors who saw most of the ball, but they seemed to limit themselves to controlling Inter. However, the next chance was also for the home side, as Walter Samuel found Dejan Stankovic in space with a nice through ball, but Chiellini recovered very well to clear the ball away as the Serbian couldn’t quite find his footing with only Alex Manninger in front of him.
Juve were dangerous in the 25th minute, when Marco Marchionni made a good run on the right, penetrated in the area and made a nice turn that eluded Sulley Muntari, who seemed to foul the Juve midfielder, but he went down too easily and the referee ignored the calls for a penalty.
However, Inter continued to be the more dangerous side, and just before the half hour mark they also had a couple of chances to show for it. In the 27th minute, Ibrahimovic did well to hold off two defenders before firing a shot from the edge of the area, but it lacked power and could easily be grabbed by Manninger.
Just after that, Inter won a free kick which was taken by Adriano, who found Muntari at the far post, but the Ghanaian could not get the ball past Manninger.
At the other end, Pavel Nedved showed himself for the first time in the 29th minute, as he made a run at the Inter defence before unleashing a shot that whizzed just past the post.
The biggest chance of the first half fell to Ibrahimovic in the 33rd minute, when a mistake by Nicola Legrottaglie sent Ibrahimovic clear through on goal, but his low shot went just past the post with only Manninger to beat.
The home side’s next chance came two minutes later, when Adriano found space on the left wing and fired in a dynamite shot that was touched out for a corner by the goalkeeper, but the referee didn’t see it and gave a goal kick.
Juve’s biggest chance of the first half came just before half time, in the 43rd minute, as substitute Marchisio fired a dipping long-range that had to be tipped over the bar by Julio Cesar.
The final chance of the half was again for the home side, though, as Ibrahimovic laid the ball off to Muntari, who fired a dangerous shot from the edge of the area that was parried away by Manninger (45’).
The second half started with no changes in either side. In the first ten minutes or so, nothing much happened as both sides seemed too cautious.
In the 56th minute, Dejan Stankovic had an opportunity as he unleashed a shot after controlling a long ball by Marco Materazzi, but it was well blocked by Legrottaglie, who seemed to handle the ball, but the referee had none of it as Inter again claimed a penalty.
Just after the hour mark, Ibrahimovic had a chance very similar to the one he had in the first half, finding himself alone in front of Manninger again, but the Swede did everything right except the shot, which rolled innocuously wide.
With the match seemingly heading for a goalless draw, Inter suddely found a goal out of nothing, and it was quite a scrappy one at that. Ibrahimovic fired a shot from the edge of the area which was deflected in from close range by Muntari, who didn’t look like he even saw the ball coming to him. The whole Juve defence was caught napping as they thought the Ghanaian was offside.
Inter continued to attack after this opening goal, looking as confident as ever, but Juve managed contain them as they looked to avoid the match ending as a contest.
In the 82nd minute, though, the visitors came close for the first time in a long while, as Del Piero was found by a Mauro Camoranesi free kick, and he headed the ball down but Julio Cesar came up with a great save.
In the final ten minutes and injury time of the match, Juve could not manage to trouble the Inter defence anymore as they looked tired, while the home side continued to control the game.
Inter now climb to 30 points in the table and will remain top regardless of tomorrow’s results, while Juve are now 6 points below them.
GOALS: 72’ Muntari
Inter (4-1-3-2): Julio Cesar; Maicon, Materazzi, Samuel, Maxwell; Cambiasso; Zanetti, Muntari (90’ Vieira), Stankovic (85’ Burdisso); Ibrahimovic, Adriano (83’ Cruz). Coach: Mourinho.
Juventus (4-4-2): Manninger; Grygera, Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Molinaro; Marchionni (69’ Camoranesi), Sissoko, Tiago (3’ Marchisio), Nedved; Del Piero, Amauri (75’ Iaquinta). Coach: Ranieri.
BOOKED: Materazzi, Samuel (I); Amauri, Legrottaglie (J)