Juventus took a significant step towards a second successive Scudetto by battling its way to a 2-1 victory over Inter in Saturday's Derby d'Italia at San Siro.
Fabio Quagliarella opened the scoring in sensational fashion just three minutes in with a stunning strike from just outside the area, after Alessandro Matri had created space for him with an ingenious stepover.
Rodrigo Palacio drew a game home side level shortly after halftime with an impressively composed finish but there was no containing the Bianconeri's front two, who combined to devastating effect again on the hour mark. Matri this time applied the finishing touch in far more routine fashion to send Antonio Conte's men 12 points clear at the summit of Serie A. Esteban Cambiasso capped off the match with a late, ugly challenge which drew a deserved red card.
Juve would have been forgiven for having one eye on its midweek Champions League meeting with Bayern Munich, but the likes of Gianluigi Buffon spoke before the game of a burning desire for vengeance, having seen a 49-game undefeated run in Serie A ended by the Nerazzurri all the way back in October.
Therefore, the way in which Juve tore into the hosts right from the first whistle really should have come as no surprise. The manner of the opener was most certainly spectacular, Quagliarella picking up possession some 25 yards out following a wonderful dummy from strike partner Matri before whipping the ball into the top right corner of Samir Handanovic’s goal.
A frustratingly brittle Inter side could easily have folded in the face of such an early onslaught but, credit to Andrea Stramaccioni’s side, it came storming back and Buffon was twice forced to come to the visitors’ rescue, tipping a low strike from Antonio Cassano around the post before then scrambling a Palacio header off the line.
It was Juve which continued to carry the greater attacking threat, though, and only some alert goalkeeping from Handanovic prevent Arturo Vidal from getting a shot away after the Chilean had been put through by a characteristically sublime ball over the top from Andrea Pirlo. The latter then tested Handanovic himself shortly before the break with a stinging drive from distance.
Inter responded with a tame downward header from Palacio, following more good work from Cassano, but, in truth, they home side was somewhat fortunate to go in just a goal behind at halftime.
It looked a different side after the break, though, and deservedly drew level when Palacio, with the aid of the most exquisitely timed arrival into the area, took a measured pass from Cassano in his stride before casually rolling the ball past an exposed Buffon.
However, the equalizer merely raised Juve from the interval-induced slumber and it reclaimed the lead on the hour mark. Again, the goal owed everything to the tremendous telepathy between their front two, Matri slotting home first time at the near post after being the recipient of a terrific cut-back from Quagliarella.
Inter tried valiantly to rally but it was unable to secure even a point from the game, thus all but ending their hopes of a top-three finish. Before the final whistle went, Cambiasso lunged in with an ugly challenge on Sebastian Giovinco, deservedly earning a straight red card.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Alessandro Matri
- Rodrigo Palacio
- Fabio Quagliarella
- Antonio Cassano