Juventus fall from grace as Diego Milito inspires Internazionale to a historic victory

Dylan Fahy
Diego Milito 300x225 Juventus fall from grace as Diego Milito inspires Internazionale to a historic victory

Diego Milito in action against Juventus

Diego Milito has spearheaded Internazionale to domestic and European glory since making the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza his home in 2009. Under the guidance José Mourinho the striker played a crucial role in the club’s treble winning campaign in his first season, and has since gone on to snatch even more silverware and several personal accolades for his achievements in Milan. However, the Argentine international had never managed to ripple the net against historic rivals Juventus while representing the Nerazzurri ahead of last weekend’s highly anticipated Derby d’Italia.

Italian sports journalist Gianni Brera dubbed the encounter between Juventus and Inter the ‘Derby of Italy’ in 1967, as it was recognised as the most intense contests around the peninsula. Last Saturday’s outing at the Juventus Arena was set to be no exception, as the pair were separated by four points at the summit of the Serie A table. Napoli’s challenge for the Scudetto was stunted with a defeat to the Italian champions a month prior, and it widely regarded that the Milanese outfit would be the team to fight it out at the top this season alongside the holders.

Despite a lacklustre start to the campaign, Nerazzurri manager Andrea Stramaccioni had pieced together a concrete and clinical side that was on an eight-match winning streak going into the game. Antonio Conte’s men on the other hand were beginning to falter, and a stalemate against FC Nordsjælland in Europe before a highly controversial win over Catania highlighting deficiencies in several departments. Having gone 49 games unbeaten up until that point, Inter looked like the only team that could potentially end the Juventus’ momentous run.

Milito was fully aware of his form infront of goal against the Turin based giants though, as his only successful strike against the club had come while playing for Genoa. Ahead of his side’s 4-0 hammering at the hands of The Old Lady last term, the 33-year-old stated he would do his “upmost to score” only to fade into the background. This time around everything was on the line as the duo prepared to do battle over the course of an entire season for the title, and should they lose it would give the Bianconeri an influential seven point lead in first place.

It only took 18 seconds for referee Paolo Tagliavento and his officiating team to take centre stage in Turin, as fierce build-up play from Juventus at kick-off found Kwadwo Asamoah, who assisted Arturo Vidal for the opening goal. However, replays proved that the Ghanaian midfielder was offside before being played through. Stephan Lichtsteiner was inexplicitly not shown a second yellow card for hacking down Rodrigo Palacio before the interval, and was swiftly substituted by Bianconeri assistant manager Angelo Alessio – taking the reigns of the suspended Conte on the touchline.

The narrative was already written based on the opening half, as the injustice of Juventus’ victory over Catania the week prior had sparked a passionate debate throughout the peninsula. Nerazzurri boss Stramaccioni and midfielder Esteban Cambiasso later revealed that the team decided to “refocus their energy” from the protest onto getting back into a period dominated by their rivals, and had goalkeeper Samir Handanovič to thank for keeping a threating Claudio Marchisio at bay.

Inter took to the field spurred on by the earlier incidents, and stronger as Fredy Guarín replaced a tiring Antonio Cassano. Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli revealed he was “scared” of Milito earlier in the week, claiming he was a “complete forward and one of the strongest in Europe”. The striker’s performance over the final 45 minutes proved why the Italian had good reason to be anxious. The Argentine sparked a dramatic comeback for the visitors by outsmarting a lacklustre backline at every turn.

Milito slotted home a deserved penalty shortly after the restart, in a nervous moment that echoed around entire stadium.  The veteran’s hard work paid dividend with a quarter of an hour left to play as he found a gap in a generally resolute defence to beat Gianluigi Buffon for the second time on the night. Fellow countryman Palacio aided him at closing down Andrea Pirlo throughout, as the playmaker struggled to impose his style after the break. Palacio rounded off the scoring in the final minute of normal time, as the small section of Nerazzurri faithful erupted at the final whistle.

“We grew and channeled our anger to put in a fantastic performance,” admitted man of the match Milito, as Juventus’ unbeaten run ended on the eve of 50 matches. Stramaccioni rightly earned plaudits for his determination to beat his title rivals by employing three strikers from the start, but also by tinkering correctly in the second half to seal the victory. However, despite bagging a brace it was Milito who made a point of being the first Inter representative to look towards the future while remaining level headed. “We must push on and not dwell for too long, we can still make life difficult for Juventus as they are top with the one point gap, we will see how it goes…”

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