Going into Sunday night’s Derbi D’Italia, Inter Milan had been flying. The Nerazzurri under new manager Antonio Conte had won six out of six in Serie A. But there is no test in Italy like the Derbi D’Italia, and there is no pressure in Serie A like facing Juventus. When Inter Milan came face-to-face with their nemesis, they showed they still have some work to do.
Derbi D’Italia: Inter Still Have Work To Do
Inter Milan 1-2 Juventus
Sunday’s game started off with a massive bang when Paulo Dybala rifled a shot that nutmegged Milan Skriniar and Samir Handanovic. That goal set the tone for a very end-to-end start to the Derbi D’Italia. Within minutes of Dybala opening, the scoring Cristiano Ronaldo tried to get in on the act but hit the crossbar instead.
Inter were creating their own chances and not long after Ronaldo hit the bar, Inter had a penalty thanks to a Matthijs De Ligt handball. The up stepped one of the stars of Inter’s hot start in Lautaro Martinez, who made sure the ball found the back of the net.
But after that, the game settled down a great deal. Both teams may have had a few half-chances or maybe a 0.25 xG, but nothing of consequence. Until, of all people, Gonzalo Higuain came off the bench to break the deadlock.
Inter Under Conte
Despite Gonzalo Higuain’s point stealing finish, Inter showed themselves quite well. This was their first big test in Serie A, and it came just three days after a Champions League away game in Barcelona. Even though the results didn’t go his way, it would be hard for Antonio Conte not be impressed with the performances his side put out against high-quality opposition.
In particular, Conte is probably overjoyed with the play of his strike partnership; Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez. Lukaku has been everything Conte had hoped he would be; holding up play, scoring goals, and being a physical presence is why Conte bought him in spite of his reputation. But it’s hard to imagine he expected Lautaro to look this good.
The 21-year-old didn’t have the easiest time adjusting to Serie A, but he shone brightly in some big moments. He has carried that momentum with him into this season. His performance in the Derby two weeks ago was impressive; his performance at the Camp Nou against Barcelona was incredible. Against Juventus however, is where he has shown the brightest.
His linkup plays it what really stood out. Conte’s teams have never been known from great passing buildup. But this Inter side might be a different breed. There were so many moments, especially in the first half, where Lautaro or Lukaku would receive the ball and complete perfectly executed passes to cycle the buildup.
As happy as that might make a Manchester United fan, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Inter purred a lot early in the game, but things came back to earth when Stefano Sensi was forced off injured.
Derbi D’Italia Midfield
Sensi’s injury probably did more to change the complexion of this game more than any one moment. Before the injury, Inter were playing through that patented Sarriball press with ease. But after Sensi was forced off playing through that press became much more difficult. And when Diego Godin was forced off in the second half it became next to impossible.
Without those critical players, Inter suddenly had a very hard time stringing any passes together. They spent much of the second half giving the ball away in their own half, suffocated by the Juventus press. Blaise Matuidi and Rodrigo Bentancur dominated the second half giving Juve all kinds of half chances that eventually lead to them winning the game.
Matuidi, in particular, was simply imperious down the stretch in this game and is a big reason as any that Juve claimed all three points. The Frenchman has seized the opportunity to play in Sarri’s pressing style. It really accentuates some of Matuidi’s excellent anticipation and work rate. It’s made him one of the most important players in a Juventus side that return to title favourites after this Derbi D’Italia win.
The win takes Juventus back above Inter Milan early in the Serie A title race. But the feeling after this Derbi D’Italia will be much more dramatic. Inter failed their first Serie A test, a chance to hit the champions in the mouth. Instead, Antonio Conte’s side is going to need a good cornerman themselves.
He will learn from this and his side will be better for it. There won’t be much changing in the Inter squad this season, but they still have the talent and system to rise above this Derbi D’Italia defeat and continue a Scudetto challenge.