Last week, Juventus made the inconceivable possible, inexplicably losing at home to Napoli. The defeat opened up what had not so long before been a foregone title race. Napoli moved to within one point of the league leaders with Juve next facing an always difficult trip to San Siro.
Inter Milan haven’t been in the best of form this season but they need no reminding how important the Derby d’Italia is. Try as they might, the Bianconeri are one team Inter cannot seem to overcome. The Nerazzurri have won only one of their last ten Serie A encounters with the reigning champions.
When all was said and done, Luciano Spalletti and Mauro Icardi would rue the day they tried to cross Juventus. The Old Lady somehow managed to escape San Siro with a precious 3-2 win to extend her lead at the top to four points.
Here are three talking points from a monumental win for Juventus.
VAR changes the game
Those who have followed Serie A closely this season will know the impact of the newly introduced video-assisted referee. A desire to reduce controversy and edge towards a fairer game has allowed VAR to force its way into football. In particular, Serie A jumped at the chance to implement the system. Their league has long been plagued with allegations of match-fixing. It’s almost tradition.
In perhaps Juve’s biggest match of the season, match-fixing didn’t change the game in their favour. It was VAR. Matias Vecino was initially shown yellow for a forceful challenge on Mario Mandzukic. Upon VAR consultation, referee Daniele Orsato upgraded the Uruguayan to a straight red card. With Inter at a severe disadvantage, Massimiliano Allegri’s men took full control.
Inter can’t say VAR was biased. Blaise Matuidi had a goal chalked off for a missed offside call later in the first half.
Mauro Icardi is Mr Inter
No name in the past decade has become more synonymous with Inter than Mauro Icardi. Although not Italian by birth, the Argentinean has become a cult figure in Milan. The 25-year-old has scored over 100 goals for the Nerazzurri, many coming in high-pressure situations. With his team down to 10-men and one-nil down, Icardi converted his first chance of the game, heading past Gianluigi Buffon with conviction.
This season alone, Icardi owns 47% of Inter’s Serie A goals, scoring 27 of the team’s 57. It demonstrates how dependent the club are on their striker. There will be many sleepless nights in the blue half of Milan as other clubs pursue their man.
On 86 minutes, it looked as though Juventus were set to suffer their second loss in as many weeks. Despite being a man down, Inter had gone 2-1 in front thanks to an Andrea Barzagli own goal. Then the Turin club showed the world why they’ve won the Serie A title six times in a row.
When it matters most, big players deliver for top clubs. After Juan Cuadrado’s effort was deflected by Milan Skriniar, beating Samir Handanovic at his near post, the match was level on both goals and just the own variety. The Derby D’Italia was crying out for a match-winner. Up stepped Gonzalo Higuain. His header placed the Zebras one step closer to the Serie A title. The 30-year-old hasn’t had his most prolific goalscoring season, with just 16 strikes in 32 appearances. Nevertheless, his influence and sense for the moment remain in a league of their own.