The ends, perhaps, justified the means. Amid all the officiating errors and inconsistencies, the better side on the night emerged victorious. And in the process Italian football’s answer to the Berlin Wall – Juve’s unbeaten record – came tumbling to the ground.
It was maybe inevitable that it would be Inter who would demolish that impressive edifice. The vitriol between their two sets of fans has carried the explosive power of gelignite in recent years. On Saturday night, it blew up in the Bianconeri’s faces.
It was the kind of game which had more talking points than a month of back-to-back chat shows. A controversial goal in the opening 20 seconds can do that to a match. By the end it was hard to work out just how much the match officials had influenced the final outcome of the game.
Let’s try to tackle all those issues in order. Juve’s opener through Arturo Vidal should have been ruled out for an offside earlier in the move, although it was possible to see how it could be missed. What was harder to excuse was the failure to send off Stephan Lichtsteiner for a pretty evident yellow-card foul after he had already been booked. His swift substitution by Martin Caceres had the air of an admission of guilt. No wonder the Nerazzurri felt miffed at half time.
But the second half had the feeling that the match officials were desperately trying to right those wrongs. Inter’s penalty was clear cut, but there were a string of free-kicks and bookings against Juventus players which had a hint of compensation about them. All it did was compound the sensation that the match officials had lost their grip on the game.
None of that, however, should diminish the Nerazzurri’s achievements. They seized the initiative after they slipped behind and managed to take a win away from the Juventus Stadium. In the process, to the delight of Interisti and neutrals, they ensured Serie A remained a contest for some time to come.
Angelo Alessio was right to point out that although a battle had been lost there was still the war to win. Only a fool would hit the panic button after one defeat in half a century of League matches. Nonetheless, the words “top player”, which haunted the club’s summer, were quick to resurface.
The loss of Mirko Vucinic to injury and his replacement by Nicklas Bendtner combined with an ineffectual performance by Sebastian Giovinco only made the queries more insistent. What could this Juve side achieve with a 20-goal a season striker? Although that question in itself ignores all that the club has managed to do so far without that kind of scoring machine.
As for Inter, they came out of the game in fully-fledged revival mode. Andrea Stramaccioni saw his bold move to pitch three forwards into the match – Antonio Cassano, Diego Milito and Rodrigo Palacio – pay off in style. He was not slow to voice his feelings of vindication after the final whistle.
The result should have allowed Napoli to breathe new life back into their title challenge but it proved beyond them. Even the goalscoring return of Edinson Cavani was not enough for them to get past a Torino side still undefeated away from home. Walter Mazzarri has been cursing his luck, but his team has struggled to find its old scintillating form of late and had to settle for a draw.
Lazio were also unable to narrow the gap at the top as their miserable run of results continued away to an impressive Catania side. Instead, it was up to Fiorentina to come out of the pack and stride past the Biancocelesti into fourth place. Just a couple of points off the Champions League places, the Viola sparkled against in-form Cagliari.
At one point during that game, the Tuscan side had just one player on the pitch – Romulo – who was in their squad last year. That underlines the scale of the revolution which has been undertaken at the Artemio Franchi. It will undergo a further test next weekend against Milan in the San Siro.
Fans of the Rossoneri will be hoping that game can continue the mini-revival enjoyed with a 5-1 thumping of Chievo. The result gave some credence to Max Allegri’s belief that his team has not enjoyed the results its play has deserved of late. Although that must be tempered by the fact that the boys from the Bentegodi are the worst travellers in the Division with five defeats out of five away from home so far this season.
Another side without a victory outside their own ground this year are Palermo and they took a thumping from Roma in Sunday’s night game. Zdenek Zeman’s side were almost on course for a clean sheet until Josip Ilicic got his first Serie A goal in nearly a year to deliver a late consolation. The impressive nature of the Giallorossi’s win – apart from a foolish red card earned by Mattia Destro for his goal celebrations – sets up a Rome derby which could actually see them overhaul Lazio in the table.
The final word probably has to go to Giovanni Stroppa who saved his Pescara job – for the time being at least – with a win over Parma. The irony, lost on nobody, was that while the Adriatico boss was fighting to keep his post, his opposite number Roberto Donadoni was celebrating signing a new contract. What odds on that getting ripped up if he racks up a few more results like this weekend’s in the months to come?