Inter Milan dominated the Derby d’Italia on Sunday night to prove that they are serious contenders for the Scudetto this season. Antonio Conte needed his side to deliver a statement win to prove that they can last the pace in the title race. They did just that.
Heading into Sunday’s showdown with Juventus, there had been two main criticisms levelled at Conte’s Inter. The first of these was the club’s head-to-head record in clashes against the ‘big’ teams.
Inter Milan Dominate Derby d’Italia
Inter’s Struggles Against Their Main Rivals
Since Conte’s arrival in the summer of 2019, Inter’s record against some of the best sides both domestically and in Europe has been dismal. In 2019/20, they lost both of their matches against Juventus. This would prove costly, as the Bianconeri pipped Inter to the title by a single point. Meanwhile, in the Champions League, Inter lost away matches at Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund before also suffering a home defeat to the Catalan giants as they exited in the group stages of the competition.
They have not fared much better during the current campaign. Once again, the team failed to progress beyond the Champions League group stages after losing twice to Real Madrid. Domestically, they have had to settle for draws against Lazio, Atalanta and Roma – all direct rivals for a European spot this season.
Throwing Away Leads
Indeed, these frustrating draws take us on to the second criticism which Conte has faced this year: Inter struggling to see out games. They have regularly taken the lead but then proceeded to sit back and invite pressure rather than looking to kill the game off. This happened against Lazio and Atalanta, and the latest example came in Rome on January 10.
Having gone into the interval a goal down, Inter flew out of the blocks in the second half. Two goals within the opening 20 minutes put them ahead and in full control. The three points were there for the taking. Another goal beckoned to put the result beyond doubt. Instead, Inter lost their grip on the contest and allowed Roma to regain the initiative.
Conte’s substitutions made the game plan clear. In the closing minutes, he sent on the experienced Aleksandar Kolarov to replace the flying full-back Achraf Hakimi, who had scored the goal to put Inter 2-1 up. It backfired as Inter went into their shell and Roma deservedly equalised late on.
It was a disappointing draw for Inter and one that they had to recover from quickly. Juventus arrived in Milan having won three straight league matches, scoring ten goals in the process. Many expected them to continue their winning streak against Inter.
Inter Shock Juventus
Instead, they were given a footballing lesson. Inter were in command from start to finish. An early goal from former Juventus player Arturo Vidal settled any nerves as Inter took a one-goal lead into the break. In previous weeks, Inter would have been content with their advantage and sat back in the second half. Yet on this occasion, they continued to play on the front foot.
The outstanding Nicolo Barella added a second soon after the interval. By the end, it could have been even more. Juventus hardly created a chance all night.
Speaking in his post-match press conference, as reported by Sempre Inter, Conte said of Barella: “He was perfect in every respect”. In truth, Conte could have been talking about the whole team. They had produced a sensational display in a crucial match.
Finally, Inter had got their statement win. They had answered their critics in emphatic fashion. Prior to Sunday, many believed that Inter possessed the squad to win Serie A, but they had not produced the performances to show that they could do it. That changed in one game as they dismantled Juventus at San Siro.
Their next task is to show that they can maintain this level. They are still chasing city rivals AC Milan for now, and one victory does not flush away all of the memories from earlier in the season.
However, this was certainly a step forwards for Antonio Conte’s men. Playing like this, they are going to be very hard to stop.