Inter 2-0 Juventus: I Nerazzurri rely on a sending-off and a wonderstrike

April 17, 2010

Inter emerge victorious, but it was far from easy. A surprising system from Alberto Zaccheroni flummoxed Inter, and it took a combination of Momo Sissoko’s madness and Maicon’s brilliance to give Inter the crucial three points.

No surprises from Inter – they played what is now their usual 4-2-1-3 shape, with Samuel Eto’o and Goran Pandev switching wings.

Juventus, on the other hand, played a strange 4-3-3 shape that saw three extremely deep central midfielders playing in front of the defence, with Vicenzo Iaquinta making diagonal runs from a far-left position, Alessandro del Piero looking to drift in from the right, and Diego playing almost as a deep-lying centre-forward, being closely marked by one of the centre-backs. It was a highly unusual system – perhaps most comparable to Barcelona’s ‘alternative’ shape last season when they played their strikers wide and their playmaker central.

It seemed to work, however, because Inter were poor in the second half. Their passing was unimaginative and they struggled to find men in space. The three Juventus forwards didn’t press particularly high, nor did they have to track back much – but they did make it hard for Inter to play the ball from their defence to midfield, and also restricted the full-backs ability to bomb on down the line.

Further forward, Inter struggled to find Wesley Sneijder in any real space between the lines because he was up against three Juventus defensive midfielders who made sure he was never unmarked, and Eto’o and Pandev struggled to make any impact against the full-backs, regardless of which side they played.

What Inter were crying out for was a genuine winger who would be happy picking up the ball deep and running at the full-back with the ball. Eto’o and Pandev are forwards playing wide and do a good job there, but Inter lack someone who can really carry the ball on the flanks, and it’s at times like this Jose Mourinho must wish that either Ricardo Quaresma or Mancini had lived up to their reputation upon their arrival at the club.

Sissoko was sent-off towards the end of the first half for a stupid challenge when already on a yellow card, and Juventus were forced to change their system. Del Piero was withdrawn, Christian Poulson replaced him and played where Sissoko had been, with Diego now floating to the right of Iaquinta, looking to pick up Esteban Cambiasso when Inter had the ball.

The introduction of Mario Balotelli for the out-of-sorts Pandev seemed to rejuvenate Inter – his outright pace caused Fabio Grosso no end of problems, and Maicon seemed to be the main beneficiary, constantly being the man in space in an advanced right-sided position.

That said, Inter still struggled to create chances. There does seem to be an over-reliance on Sneijder for creativity, even with their multi-talented starting XI. Diego Milito and Pandev are fine players but not creators, whilst Eto’o and Balotelli are so direct that they need to be complimented with a more intelligent ringleader. By playing three midfielders so deep and Sneijder any space, Juve largely stopped Inter – although Cambisso and Dejan Stankovic began to exert their influence on the game.

The game was won by this stunning strike from Maicon – a moment of pure individual genius.

After that goal, Juventus looked drained of any energy - there was not the confidence, stamina nor pure talent required to get themselves back in the game having defended solidly with ten men for so long, and Jose Mourinho barely needed to attempt to ’shut out’ the game – the goal alone did that.

Nevertheless, this was far from Mourinho’s finest moment, as his Inter side looked uncomfortable throughout. The sending-off of Sissoko was extremely frustrating, as Juventus looked to have outwitted Inter by playing three forwards in an unusual manner, and Pep Guardiola will have been watching with interest.

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