Football Features

Inter Milan 1-2 Juventus: Winners & losers as Sarri answers critics in Derby d’Italia

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:03, 6 October 2019

Juventus moved to the top of Serie A with a fine 2-1 win over rivals Inter Milan.

Paulo Dybala gave the Bianconeri an early lead but Lautaro Martinez equalised from the penalty spot shortly after. Both sides fought hard in an excellent advert for Italian football but it was Juventus who would eventually find the winner through Gonzalo Higuain.

But who were the biggest winners and losers from the Derby d’Italia?

Winner: Paulo Dybala

Dybala’s place in Maurizio Sarri’s Juventus squad was in doubt over the summer, with the new Bianconeri boss having a star-studded attack to choose from. The Argentinian had looked close to leaving Juventus for Tottenham, though the proposed move fell through on the final day of the Premier League’s transfer window – already a win for Dybala given Spurs’ 2019/20 campaign so far.

Dybala hadn’t impressed too much at the start of the season, and took some time to earn Sarri’s trust to gain a place in the starting XI, where he has since become a growing influence.

Nevertheless, it was still a surprise to many when Dybala’s name was in the Juventus starting XI to face Inter Milan on Sunday night, with Higuain dropping down to the bench. Higuain is very much Sarri’s man and had started four of Juventus’ six Serie A games prior to the trip to the San Siro – being rested after Champions League gameweek one, and before gameweek two.

But Dybala justified his selection within just four minutes. Collecting a pass from Miralem Pjanic, Dybala raced in behind Milan Skriniar before drilling a low shot past Samir Handanovic in the Inter goal – his first strike of the season.

Loser: Matthijs de Ligt

Matthijs de Ligt, what were you thinking?!

The Dutch centre-back has not exactly had the best start to life at Juventus after his highly-anticipated move from Ajax over the summer. Tipped as one of the best young defenders in the world, expectations were high but De Ligt started the new campaign on the bench, unable to displace Leondaro Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini.

Juventus assistant manager Giovanni Martusciello had revealed the plan was to slowly embed De Ligt into the team, allowing him time to acclimatise to Italian football, but an injury to Chiellini saw the Dutchman thrown into the starting XI.

And things aren’t exactly going well. Yet to truly get started, Juventus fans must have hoped Sunday’s Derby d’Italia would be a great time for De Ligt to put in a top-tier performance. But it was another night to forget.

With Juventus taking an early lead, all they needed to do was remain defensively solid and top spot in Serie A would be theirs. De Ligt clearly didn’t get the memo, opting to clear a cross by leading with his elbow, leaving Gianluca Rocchi with no option but to point to the spot. Inter equalised and, almost trying to make up for his error, De Ligt’s level dropped – pushing far too high up the pitch at times including one instance that saw him nutmegged on a counter-attack by Romelu Lukaku in the Inter half.

Fortunately he was rescued by his teammates, but De Ligt will want to forget Sunday’s game very quickly.

Winner: Lautaro Martinez

Signing from Racing Club last summer, Martinez very much had a learning year with Inter Milan in the 2018/19 season. The Argentinian striker started 13 of his 27 Serie A appearances last season, having to watch and learn as Mauro Icardi continued to lead the line, chipping in with six goals.

But Icardi’s departure to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer left a gaping hole in Inter’s attack, even if the former captain hadn’t been at his best towards the end of last season, scoring two goals in 13 Serie A games in 2019.

So, who would be the one to fill the hole left by Icardi. Summer signing Romelu Lukaku? How about his compatriot Martinez?

The 22-year-old has been a key player going forward for Inter so far this season, doing as much work off the ball as he has been doing on it, constantly giving opposition defenders something to think about. He was at his best against Juventus, hassling De Ligt throughout and it was him challenging for the ball which led the Dutch centre-back to make his bizarre mistake.

Martinez was then the one to step up and take the penalty, sending his effort low into the bottom left corner, beating Wojciech Szczesny. The Argentinian continued to cause a problem until being taken off to a well-deserved ovation with just under 15 minutes to go.

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Loser: Antonio Conte

Well there it is, the final perfect start in Italy’s top flight is over.

Inter Milan had started the new Serie A campaign in dominating form, winning all of their opening six games. But in the big games, they were becoming unstuck.

Yes, they won the Derby della Madonnina against AC Milan but look at that Milan team now. Marco Giampaolo’s job looks insecure after three straight defeats including derby – despite a win this weekend.

In their Champions League opener, they had to fight back to draw at home to Slavia Prague and they lost a lead at the Nou Camp to Barcelona in midweek.

And now, they were perfectly beaten by Juventus, with the differences in the squad showing. Inter had initially done well to get back into the game after going behind early, but the Nerazzurri were very clearly affected in the middle of the pitch by Stefano Sensi’s injury in the first half.

Juventus took control and eventually got the lead their domination deserved late on, with Conte unable to turn the tide back in his side’s favour through uninspiring substitutions.

Of course, Inter are still genuine contenders for the title, but this game showed they do need more than Conte’s fighting spirit.

Winner: Maurizio Sarri

A lot was said about Sarri’s management style after his year in the Premier League with Chelsea, but the Italian has reminded his doubters what he is capable of.

Sarri made some big calls going into the game, picking Dybala over Higuain, but that decision was quickly justified when the Argentinian gave Juventus the lead.

Then in the second half, Juventus needed something different, with Inter’s defence managing to keep out Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. Sarri looked at the situation and brought some tactical changes – something he was criticised for not doing enough at Chelsea.

The first batch of substitutions saw Rodrigo Bentancur and Higuain coming on for Sami Khedira and Federico Bernardeschi, with Higuain creating an attacking trio alongside Ronaldo and Dybala.

But that wasn’t quite working either, so off game Dybala and on came Emre Can, adding another solid midfielder to allow the attacking players more freedom. Less than 10 minutes after that change, Juventus got the goal they needed, with substitute Higuain grabbing the winner after fine attacking play.

Juventus now sit top of Serie A, two points clear of Sunday’s opponents, and Sarri can now start to build his way to a first ever league title for himself and ninth in a row for the club.

Loser: Samir Handanovic

Going into Sunday’s game, Inter Milan had the best defence in Europe’s top five leagues. The Nerazzurri had conceded just two goals, and had yet to let in more than one in a single Serie A game, keeping four clean sheets.

But when Juve came to town, Inter struggled to keep the attack out, conceding two for the second week in a row across all competitions – after losing to Barcelona by the same 2-1 scoreline in midweek.

And though credit should be given to the Juventus forwards for their finishes, there are suggestions that Samir Handanovic could have done better with both goals.

First, the Slovenian managed to get a slight hand on Dybala’s effort and perhaps would have managed to connect more had he been prepared for the shot, looking rather flat-footed. And then, he allowed Higuain’s winner to squirm under him – beaten by the power – but again Handanovic would have expected himself to be doing better.