With the Scudetto race already over, you might have thought that what was expected to be a crucial encounter for the title back when the schedule was drafted would instead be a rather muted affair. And you couldn’t have been more wrong. Three penalties, two red cards, 9 bookings, countless questionable calls from Gianpaolo Calvarese, and five goals highlighted yet another incredible Derby d’Italia that left everyone from players to fans dazed and bewildered by the time the final whistle blew.
After rotating heavily against Sampdoria and Roma, Antonio Conte threw out his strongest squad in Turin. There were six changes from the team that beat the Giallorossi 3-1 midweek, ranging everywhere from goalkeeper to striker. Andrea Pirlo kept the same 4-4-2 shape from a win at Sassuolo, though Dejan Kulusevski partnered Cristiano Ronaldo instead of Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala. Federico Chiesa and Juan Cuadrado lined up on the flanks, while Rodrigo Bentancur and Adrien Rabiot formed the midfield partnership.
The fourth Derby d’Italia of the season commenced with a cagey start. The first shot didn’t come until the 11th minute, though it was a golden opportunity for Juventus to take the lead. A Federico Chiesa header across the goalmouth found an unmarked Dejan Kulusevksi six yards out, but a Milan Skriniar block kept the Swede’s volley from finding the net.
The hosts weren’t to be daunted, however, and stayed on the front foot. Juve’s work paid off with a penalty 23 minutes in. Darmian pulled Giorgio Chiellini down in a corner-kick scuffle and a glance at the VAR monitor was enough for referee Gianpaolo Calvarese to point to the spot. Ronaldo’s initial effort was saved by Samir Handanovic, but the 36-year-old had no trouble with the rebound.
Ronaldo has scored his 29th Serie A goal of the season.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 15, 2021
Only Lewandowski has more in Europe's top five leagues. pic.twitter.com/FelYeqZQxr
Inter would get its chance from twelve yards only eleven minutes later. Matthijs De Ligt stepped on Lautaro’s heel in the box and once more the referee needed VAR to make the call. Lukaku continued his perfect record from the spot, scoring his 23rd of the campaign.
Lukaku makes no mistake from the penalty spot!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 15, 2021
Juventus 1-1 Inter pic.twitter.com/BVu5j07Uej
The half looked to be nearing its end with the scoreline level, but as was custom Saturday, the fireworks had no curfew. With only sixty seconds left before halftime, a loose clearance fell to Cuadrado who blasted home Juve’s second of the day.
JUAN CUADRADO WITH A ROCKET— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 15, 2021
Juventus 2-1 Inter pic.twitter.com/ROAuFmDXgj
While conceding so late in the half was surely aggravating for the Nerazzurri, it wasn’t a forty-five minutes to be proud of. Possession was almost evenly split but the action took place overwhelmingly in Inter’s half and midfield. The visitors were outshot 11-2 and struggled to make any noise in the final third. Thanks to Inter’s rock-solid defense, Juve had only four shots on target but its attack was even quieter. With the exception of the penalty (which was the sole time Inter reached Juve’s box and only shot on target), the Nerazzurri were muzzled by a Juventus side that showed all of the game’s initiative.
Conte brought on Ivan Perisic for Matteo Darmian at halftime in a move to open up a more offensive approach. Inter showed more urgency after the interval and found its reward with Bentancur’s dismissal in the 55th minute. The Uruguayan midfielder took down Lukaku on the counter and picked up his second booking 33 minutes after the first. Down to ten men, Juve dropped into the type of defensive shape Inter has had so much trouble breaking down over the course of the season. Merih Demiral and Alvaro Morata came on for Chiesa and Ronaldo, while Inter brought Stefano Sensi and Matias Vecino into the fray.
The Nerazzurri continued to push for an equalizer but lacked the final pass to break through Juve. Eventually, however, the heavy numbers Inter threw forward overloaded a short-handed Juve. Vecino had a close-range header pawed away by Szczesny in the 82nd minute, but that was only a sign of the events to come. Inter thought it tallied its long-awaited second of the day in the 83rd minute after a mix-up in the box, but the referee called a non-existent foul on Lukaku in favor of Chiellini. VAR was again called into action, however, and CalVARese gave the goal. It turned out to be a Chiellini own goal and to add insult to injury, the veteran got a yellow as well for fouling Lukaku en route to the goal.
But that was far from the end of things. On Juve’s first venture forward of the second half, the Bianconeri were awarded a penalty on a very, very, very decision. Cuadrado kicked Perisic after cutting back for a cross, but that was apparently enough for Calvarese to give a spot-kick. The Colombian blasted his own penalty home for a brace in the 86th minute.
Cuadrado fires Juventus back in front from the spot!— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 15, 2021
Did the referee get this right pic.twitter.com/pFT6WneUxS
And even worse for Inter, Marcelo Brozovic picked up a second yellow for taking down Cuadrado on the counter as the Nerazzurri hunted for another equalizer. It was not to be, however, and Juve handed Inter only its third loss of the season.
Handanovic - 5: Added another penalty save to his record but like against Zlatan in the derby, gave the rebound right back to the kicker. Also left a lot to be desired on Cuadrado’s first goal; though it did take a slight deflection, it was down the middle and Handanovic almost appeared to move out of the way.
Bastoni - 6.5: Had the fourth most touches on Inter, 4 accurate long balls, and a passing rate of 93%, but was largely a periphery figure at the Allianz Stadium.
de Vrij - 6.5: de Vrij too was not in the spotlight often. Lost possession only twice, won 4 duels, and made two interceptions.
Skriniar - 7: Whereas his center-back partners were mostly passengers, Skriniar made several key defensive plays. Made five clearances and blocked three shots, including several that would have found the net if not for him.
Darmian - 5.5: Needless to pull down Chiellini in the box, and while it was a soft foul, there’s no room for physical contact like that in the age of VAR. Also picked up a yellow for his troubles, which will suspend him against Udinese and offered very little going forward before a halftime exit.
Eriksen - 6: Speaking of offering very little, Eriksen was 7th in touches on Inter. For a midfielder of his quality, that’s too low, especially considering that Juve’s parked bus needed someone of his skill to break down. Instead, he was one of the first to exit for Sensi and made only one key pass.
Brozovic - 7: At first had Kulusevski man-marking him like in the Coppa Italia, but the Swede’s yellow made that too risky to continue. With the exception of his reckless and unnecessary red card, Brozovic was one of Inter’s best players. Led the team in touches, had 4 accurate long balls, 2 key passes, and won 4 duels.
Barella - 6.5: While his performance in the reverse fixture was one of Barella’s best yet in an Inter kit, it wasn’t to be repeated Saturday. Wasn’t able to make any impact in the first half but found his footing in the second. Got the “assist” on Chiellini’s own goal and had 3 successful long balls.
Hakimi - 6: The Moroccan also struggled to make an impact, and even more so when Juve’s drop into a defensive shape closed down the space he loves to run into. When he did get into the final third, Hakimi couldn’t find an end product and connected on only 2/6 crosses.
Lautaro - 6.5: Caused Juventus constant problems with his movement off the ball but couldn’t translate that into chances. Had only 23 touches (the least of any starter except Darmian) but did win 6 duels.
Lukaku - 7: Like his strike partner, the game passed Lukaku by more frequently than Conte would like. Continued his perfect record from the penalty spot in Italy but had only 31 touches.
Perisic - 6: While the penalty on Cuadrado was unavoidable (and not a foul either), Perisic struggled to generate problems for Juve in the final third. Was certainly more active than Darmian but found the target on only 2 of 5 crosses.
Next up for Inter is the season finale at the San Siro against Udinese. The specific time and date for that one have not yet been announced, but it’s perhaps the most eagerly awaited game of the season; the first trophy lift in a decade will arrive in only a week's time. And while sending Juventus to the Europa League and beating it home and away would have been oh so sweet, it’s difficult to take a game with such abysmal refereeing as this one seriously. The errors from Calvarerse were strewn about in wild fashion but the Cuadrado penalty was an egregious call to a suspicious level. Had this game mattered in the title chase, you could only wonder what the reaction would be.
Inter, though, is the team that will wear the Scudetto patch on its jersey next season no matter what. And I for one can not wait to see Conte and company take the podium next weekend at the San Siro.