If there is a quality stitched into Torino’s shirts, it is heart. Their fans are most proud of their team when performances are as much about character as they are about talent. They deserved to leave the Juventus Stadium with their chests puffed out on Saturday night after pushing their city rivals as hard as anyone has on their own ground in Serie A this season.
Let’s cut to the chase here and say that a poor piece of refereeing did not help their task. Having taken the lead through an exquisite Adem Ljajic free-kick, they lost Afriyie Acquah to two yellow cards which were debatable at best. Sinisa Mihajlovic was incandescent with rage and the fires of conspiracy theory were stoked once again.
Whatever your view - an error or an officiating assist - the simple fact is that the top team in Italy is hard enough to beat without getting the benefit of any contentious decisions.
Yet Toro fought with every fibre to deny them even after suffering injustice. In fact, it almost seemed to inspire them - in the week of the anniversary of the Superga disaster - to live up to the battling abilities of their greatest ever side. It took a strike of deadly genius from Gonzalo Higuain to snatch victory away, like a knife through the Cuore Granata.
That El Pipita was even on the pitch was a tribute to the away team’s efforts. La Vecchia Signora had made so many changes for this game that she was scarcely recognisable at kick-off. Max Allegri clearly hoped to get through the match without wasting the energy of some of his stars with a big Champions League date imminent. It came within a couple of minutes of back-firing spectacularly.
Juve were good enough before they slipped behind and prior to the sending off, but not their usual clinical selves. A midfield containing the likes of Stefano Sturaro and Tomas Rincon was always likely to be heavier on perspiration than inspiration. The Scudetto spumante will have to remain on ice.
The Bianconeri will view it as a job done, a tricky fixture navigated without defeat en route to making Calcio history with a sixth league title in a row. They have a big fish to fry in Europe midweek, of course. And accusations of refereeing aid are like bullets bouncing off Superman for them by now.
As for Torino, they will feel justifiably aggrieved. It is hard enough to take down Juve without them getting a little boost from a game’s key decisions. They will be raging now - and rightly so - but when their blood has ceased boiling, they should also take some pleasure in living up to all the attributes their famous colours demand.
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