No filter needed, because the beautiful Inter turns out to be too sharp for Juventus

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Once he finished celebrating Inter’s victory over Juventus on the pitch, Hakan Calhanoglu took to social media and posted a shirtless photo of himself on Instagram with the message: “We’re not done yet.” His teammate Marcus Thuram was merciless with a one-word response: “Photoshop.”

Calhanoglu denied this, of course, but perhaps he should have fired back. No still image can dazzle Inter fans quite like the pass he played in the first half of Sunday night’s match. From his own half and just to the right of the center circle, Calhanoglu freed Federico Dimarco with a 60-yard ball that bypassed the entire Juventus team. The fullback crossed for Thuram to score. Instead, Bremer slid in and cleared the ball off the Frenchman’s toes.

Related: Internazionale in the lead in Serie A title race, while Gatti’s own goal costs Juventus

No one could seriously blame Thuram. Dimarco’s center was slightly behind him and this was an exceptional recovering tackle. However, the striker was perhaps somewhat relieved when another Juventus player put the ball in his own net, after he failed to connect with another cross ten minutes later.

This time the delivery came from Nicolò Barella on the right. Benjamin Pavard found space at the near post and attempted an acrobatic scissor kick, missing the ball completely. Thuram came in the middle for Juventus’ Federico Gatti, but couldn’t stoop low enough to put his head on it. His marker gave them both a reprieve and fired the ball past a wrong-footed Wojciech Szczesny.

A goal to end the title race? It was the only one of the match and gave Inter a 1-0 victory that extended their lead over Juventus to four points with a game to go. Simone Inzaghi then maintained his line that this match was important – “importantissima‘In fact – but with sixteen games left in the season hardly decisive.

It’s extraordinary that we’ve ever had a title race. Inter has set a breakneck pace, now with 57 points from 22 games. Only once in club history have they performed better – in 2006-2007 – the following year Calciopoli scandal that saw Juventus relegated to Serie B. At the same point last season, Napoli’s 59 points gave them a 15 lead over second place.

Inzaghi’s Inter are brilliant from top to bottom. They would have been weakened by the summer departures of André Onana, Milan Skriniar, Marcelo Brozovic, Robin Gosens, Edin Dzeko and Romelu Lukaku, but their replacements have only made them stronger.

In goal, Yann Sommer has 14 clean sheets from 22 appearances. Thuram has emerged as a perfect complement to Lautaro Martínez up front. Pavard has claimed a starting spot on the right of Inter’s back three. His versatility makes him a perfect fit for Inzaghi’s fluid, fast attacking system. Against Juventus he played box-to-box, with Calhanoglu, Barella and right-back Matteo Darmian taking turns filling spaces as he ventured forward.

Massimiliano Allegris Bianconerihave also raised their level. Before Sunday, they had lost just one game all season – away to Sassuolo in September. Coincidentally, Gatti also scored an own goal that day.

Their football has not always been dazzling. From the start of this season through December, Juventus emerged as the most literal embodiment of Massimiliano Allegri’scorto musomantra, the idea – borrowed from horse racing – that coming first with a ‘short head’ was as good as going several furlongs. Juventus won thirteen of their first eighteen games, but only three by more than one goal.

However, things changed in early 2024. Juventus opened the year with a 6-1 defeat against Salernitana, followed by a 4-0 against Frosinone and 3-0 against Sassuolo and Lecce. Dusan Vlahovic, a striker who previously struggled to live up to the €70 million plus bonuses Juventus paid to sign him from Fiorentina in January 2022, suddenly scored six goals in five games. Kenan Yildiz, the 18-year-old prodigy promoted from the Next Gen side, seemed to have unlocked it.

It all set the stage for one of the biggest Derby d’Italia fixtures in decades. Only once since then Calciopoli set these teams up for a truly competitive title clash: 2019-2020 was Antonio Conte’s first season as manager of Inter. Juventus had the upper hand at the time, but it was the beginning of the end of their nine-year dominance of Italian football. The landscape looks very different these days, with Serie A seeing a different winner in each of the last four years.

However, on Sunday Inter showed itself to be a class higher again. Juventus created just one clear goal-scoring opportunity at San Siro, with Vlahovic letting himself down with a hard tap after Weston McKennie – playing the best football of his career after a dismal chapter at Leeds – burst forward from midfield.

Only a series of brilliant last-gasp interventions prevented Inter from adding to Gatti’s own goal. After Bremer’s tackle on Thuram, Szczesny followed by denying Barella and Marko Arnautovic from close range.

Inzaghi was right when he said one match in February won’t seal anything. As he had highlighted in the build-up, Juventus’ big advantage this season is a lighter fixture schedule – due to their one-year ban from European competition, a punishment for breaches of financial rules.

This was Inter’s 31st game of the season and Juve’s 25th. Inzaghi’s team have the first of two Champions League games against Atletico Madrid this month and an additional Serie A match, against fourth-placed Atalanta, who had to be pushed back when they traveled to Riyadh for the Supercoppa in January.

Friday: Lecce 3-2 Fiorentina
Saturday: Bologna 4-2 Sassuolo, Frosinone 2-3 Milan, Empoli 0-0 Genoa, Udinese 0-0 Monza
Sunday: Inter 1-0 Juventus, Atalanta 3-1 Lazio, Napoli 2-1 Verona, Torino 0-0 Salernitana

Many things can change, including injuries or suspensions at inopportune times. Yet the past three weeks tell a story: Inter are recording consecutive victories over Lazio, Napoli, Fiorentina and now Juventus without conceding a single goal.

Their CEO, Beppe Marotta, reiterated a statement we’ve heard from a few people in recent months, namely that the run to last season’s Champions League final has given this team a boost of confidence, allowing them to up their game even further. can further improve.

They play at a level that few Italian teams have reached in recent years. After Inter’s 3-0 victory over Lazio in the Supercoppa semi-final, Maurizio Sarri – a manager who owns the Serie A and Europa League winners’ medals and who coached in the Premier League – commented that “they got the ball moving at a speed I have rarely seen”.

Calhanoglu was mocked – even by some fans of his own team – for claiming last spring that he was one of the top five players in the world at his position. It would be hard for someone who has been paying attention over the past year to be so dismissive. No filters or Photoshop are needed to illustrate the truth that both he and Inter are reaching new levels.







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