Juve outclass Inter to move 12 points clear
MILAN (AFP) –
Fabio Quagliarella and Alessandro Matri scored one apiece for Juventus as the champions reinforced their Serie A title defence with a commanding 2-1 away win to Inter Milan here at the San Siro on Saturday.
Inter began the day 18 points adrift of the leaders and despite having a game in hand had hoped to close the gap as they continue to battle for a top three place that would all but guarantee Champions League football next season.
However, the Nerazzurri, who welcomed several players back late from World Cup qualifying matches in South America, were outclassed in the first half and, despite Argentine Rodrigo Palacio producing a superb leveller 10 minutes after the restart, the hosts were silenced again when Matri struck on the hour.
Juventus now sit 12 points ahead of second-placed Napoli, who face Torino in a tricky away game later Saturday, and 21 ahead of Inter, who dropped one place to sixth after Lazio‘s 2-1 win against Catania.
Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni admitted the early goal had upset his plans.
“Their first goal after only a few minutes obviously gave Juventus the momentum and we didn’t really get going until the second half,” said Stramaccioni.
“We were playing open football and really came into it in the second half, but they scored their second when we were playing our best football.”
Juve counterpart Antonio Conte once again flirted with controversy when he pumped his fists in celebration in the direction of Juve’s fans after the match.
But afterwards he said the champions must remain cautious.
“It’s another step in the right direction,” said Conte, who won the title with Juve last year in his first season in charge.
“But Napoli and Milan won’t wait for us if we slip up, so we have to keep on winning.”
Juve started strongly and took the lead when Quagliarella produced a great strike from the edge of the area which left Samir Handanovic clutching at thin air.
Dominated in midfield, Inter were reduced to feeding Antonio Cassano a series of long balls, none of which produced the desired effect although the Inter striker forced a fine fingertip save from Gianluigi Buffon.
An alert Buffon then produced a fine block on the goalline from Palacio’s back post header from Alvaro Pereira’s cross while at the other end Quagliarella’s effort with the outside of his boot was tipped to safety by Handanovic.
Handanovic then parried a Pirlo drive, following a nice spell of one-touch football and then Palacio, from Cassano’s cross, spurned a chance to level just before the break.
Stramaccioni made only one change at the interval with Fredy Guarin replacing Pereira in midfield.
Palacio seemed to be Inter’s best bet for a goal and seized the day shortly after the restart.
Pirlo lost the ball in midfield to Mateo Kovacic, whose pass to Cassano found Palacio in space and he waltzed into Juve’s area to beat Buffon with the outside of his right boot and send the majority of the 79,341 spectators into raptures.
Inter’s joy, however, lasted only six minutes, Matri beating Handanovic from close in after Quagliarella’s neat cut-back at the byeline.
Inter came fighting back and after a mazy run into the area Alvarez tumbled to the ground but Inter’s claims for a penalty were waved away.
From the resulting corner the ball fell to Cassano at the back post but his tame shot was straight at Buffon.
Moments later Inter saw another penalty claim ignored after Cassano, following a nice lay-off by Palacio, fell to the ground as he was dispossessed by Giorgio Chiellini.
Inter struggled to create further opportunities in the remainder and finished the match with 10 men after Esteban Cambiasso saw red for a swipe at Sebastian Giovinco’s ankle in the final second.
Inter now sit sixth, seven points off the third place occupied by city rivals Milan, who are away to Chievo later Saturday.