Inter 2-3 Juventus: Remembering When Gonzalo Higuaín Stole the Scudetto From Napoli

  • Serie A is slow and boring.
  • Gonzalo Higuaín is the biggest bottler in the history of professional football. 
  • Serie A ?hasn’t been competitive this decade because Juventus have walked the league every season. 

After a first half in which Juventus raced into a one goal lead against a ten-man Inter at San Siro, all of the aforementioned Italian football myths seemed to be true.

Serie A was it’s ‘usual boring old self because Juve were better than everyone else’, Juve were moving four points clear of Napoli in the title race, and Gonzalo Higuaín was still a ‘bottler’ because he still hadn’t scored that goal – the significant one which wins his team some silverware. 

De Suoza Douglas Costa

But in the second half something changed. 

Because in the second half Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman from Mythbusters plodded out onto the pitch and busted some myths!…or, you know, Inter woke up and mounted a miraculous comeback to take a 2-1 lead- courtesy of a Mauro Icardi goal and an Andrea Barzagli own goal – to set the stage for another miraculous comeback. 

Juve’s miraculous comeback.

With just five minutes remaining Juan Cuadrado would level the scores in fortuitous fashion, before Higuaín banished his ‘big game bottler’ tag with a last minute header to win the game – and title – for La Vecchia Signora. 

Gonzalo Gerardo Higuain

Big game Higgy. 


Juventus 

Key Talking Point

During this near decade of domestic dominance for Juventus – contrary to popular belief – they have had plenty of serious title challengers. 

Juve pipped Milan to the post in 2011/12, AS Roma challenged for a bit after that, and then Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli burst onto the scene playing the best football in Europe (by quite a distance). 

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Throughout the 2017/18 season, it’s more than fair to say that Napoli were the best team in Italy – because, you know, they were. And that’s not just my opinion, just a week prior to the game this article is about, I Partenopei went to the Allianz Stadium and beat Juve 1-0 in their own back yard. 

So going into week 35 of the season, while Juve still held a one-point lead atop the table, the momentum was with Napoli and the title was considered to be theirs to lose. 

In week 35 of the season, they lost it. 

And Juventus won it…largely because of how much more experienced they were in these high-pressure, title-destination deciding, defining moments – as their domestic double the previous season attests. 

Giovanni Simeone

Juve secured a dramatic comeback victory over one of the best teams in Italy on the Saturday evening, and Napoli would crumble under the pressure on Sunday at Fiorentina, allowing Diego Simeone’s son to score a hat trick against them. 

Napoli spurned their best chance to win the Scudetto in 30 years, and Juventus capitalised.


Juventus Player Ratings

Starting XI: Buffon (6); Cuadrado (6), Rugani (6), Barzagli (5), Alex Sandro (4); Khedira (5), Pjanic (4), Matuidi (5); Costa (8), Higuaín (8), Mandzukic (7). 

Substitutes: Dybala (7), Bentancur (5), Bernardeschi (7). 


Gonzalo Higuaín

‘Higuaín cost Lionel Messi the World Cup!’

‘Higuaín is a bottler!’ 

‘My granny is a better forward than Higuaín!’ 

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These are just some of the things that have been shouted at Pipita over the years, but this game went some way (for some…mostly Serie A followers and not the Messi fanboys of the world) to banishing the memory of that World Cup final miss. 

As in this game, with the Scudetto on the line, Gonzalo Higuaín came up trumps.

In the 88th minute, he headed home at the back post to win Juventus the Scudetto.  


Inter

Key Talking Point

It’s easy to forget that, pre-Christmas, Inter were right smack bang in the title race. In fact, up until the 16 December, they’d gone 15 games unbeaten and dropped just eight points. 

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However, just as they did in this game, when fans’ optimism and expectations had peaked, they completely collapsed – following up their 15 game unbeaten run with eight games without a win…yeah not great.

Still, it was a largely positive season for I Nerazzuri in which they qualified for the Champions League with one of the final kicks of the campaign in straight shootout with Lazio, and lay the foundations for what is now a bloody good football team. 


Inter Player Ratings 

Starting XI: Handanovic (6); Cancelo (7), Skriniar (5), Miranda (6), D’Ambrosio (5); Vecino (2), Brozovic (7), Rafinha (6); Candreva (5), Icardi (7), Perisic (6). 

Substitutes: Santon (5), Valero (5). 


Mauro Icardi

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Love him or hate him (you probably hate him if you’re not Wanda), you can’t deny that Mauro Icardi was absolutely outstanding during the 2017/18 season, scoring 29 Serie A goals and announcing himself as a world-class number nine. 

This game, for Icardi at least, was no different to pretty much every other in this campaign because he scored. He’s pretty good at doing that. 


Things That Aged the Best

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The Juventus kit: God I miss those stripes…there used to be so many of them… 

Marcelo Brozovic and Milan Skriniar: Both played in this game – fairly well – and both have gone on to become two of the very best in their respective positions in the world. 

Non-Cristiano Ronaldo Juventus: It is easy to forgot how much more fluid Juve were pre-Ronaldo. They may still win games with him, but bah gawd they were so much more fun to watch when he wasn’t there (Ronaldo Twitter come at me you creeps).

The 2017/18 season: My main takeaway from writing this article is just how good the 2017/18 Serie A season was. It was INCREDIBLE. 


Things That Aged the Worst

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Juventus’ midfield: Sami Khedira, Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi. HOW DID THAT MIDFIELD EVER SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY?!

VAR: The technology was used effectively in this game, but hasn’t been since. 

Mauro Icardi at Inter: He was/is an amazing player. He’s also a complete arsehole though, and despite all the goals, he was soon shipped off on loan to Paris Saint-Germain. 

Douglas Costa: He hasn’t really played since this season, which is a shame, because when fit he’s the most exciting player in Serie A. 

Napoli’s title celebrations: A week prior, Napoli fans took the streets to emphatically celebrate what they thought was a title-defining win…it wasn’t. 


What Happened Next? 

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Juventus won the league. 

SSC Napoli didn’t win the league. 

Inter qualified for the UEFA Champions League. 

I’ve already said all this so moving on… 


Unanswerable Questions

Maurizio Sarri,Massimiliano Allegri

If Napoli won the league, does Sarri stay and they become a powerhouse? 

If Juventus lose, do they sack Allegri? And who do they replace him with?

I guess we’ll never know.


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Valentino Lazaro ‘Open’ to Making Newcastle Switch Permanent But Danny Rose Future Uncertain

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?Inter loanee Valentino Lazaro is said to be open to a permanent switch to Newcastle at the end of his temporary spell on Tyneside.  The versatile wide man – who made a name for himself after a stellar campaign last time out with Hertha Berlin – struggled to impress Antonio Conte at Inter in a right wing-back role following his £20m summer arrival.  In January, the Magpies opted to bolster their right flank by taking Lazaro on loan, and he’s endured a rollercoaster start to life in England;…

South Korean Brand Nivelcrack Drop Wavey R9 Inspired Collection

When you think about Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima, there is still a lingering question of ‘what if’? 


What if his knee hadn’t completely exploded during his playing career? What if he hadn’t feinted before that fateful World Cup final in 1998? And, of course, what if he had his face plastered all over a Hawaiian shirt?

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For their SS20 the brand have taken inspiration from one of football’s most iconic players, El Fenomeno. The collection features t-shirts, shorts, caps, rugs, sliders, hawaiian

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The full collection will be available from the ?Nivelcrack website on the 26th of March and if you think we’re getting that Mercurial R9 tracksuit, you’re absolutely right.


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Lazio 4-2 Inter: A Nerazzurri Bottlejob As Juve Steal Ronaldo’s Serie A Title

Internazionale look set to win their first Serie A title in 13 years when they headed to Stadio Olimpico to face SS Lazio on 5th May 2002. 

What would follow would be one of the most extraordinary finales in Italian football history and one of the biggest bottlejobs in the history of mankind. 

Coming into the final fixture, three teams could mathematically win the Scudetto: Roma in third, Juventus in second, with Inter top of the table. 

Inter Milan v Brescia X

Journalists and fans had considered the game a formality as Lazio’s season was effectively over because they could not qualify for the Champions League. 

And, well, Lazio fans wanted Inter to beat them. They actively asked their own players to lose by revealing a sign pre-game that read: ‘Neither Juve, nor Roma, Inter Champions’.

Not content there, plenty of Inter flags were seen amongst the home support. Even chants were during the game heard from Lazio fans, calling for an Inter penalty.

What occurred next defied belief. Inter managed to throw away two leads before half time and absolutely collapsed in the second to allow their bitter rivals Juve to snatch the title. 


LAZIO

Key Talking Point

Lazio came into the game with really nothing to play for. UEFA Cup qualification was the most that the club could attain. 

By all accounts, the Biancocelesti were on their holidays as the majority of the players were gearing up for the World Cup – Fernando Couto’s lackadaisical clearance for a corner that led to Inter’s second goal illustrates that fact. 

All but one player decided not to play in that first half: Karel Poborsky. 

The Czech midfielder decided to take the game to Inter, forgoing his teammates. 

It’s reported that at half-time with the score 2-2, Lazio heard that ?Juventus were winning. This meant that Roma wouldn’t win the title, so the team decided to play. 

Two second-half goals from ?Atlético’s Diego Simeone and current Lazio manager Simeone Inzaghi sealed ?Inter’s fate.


Lazio Player Ratings 

Starting XI: Peruzzi (5); Stam (6), Fernando Couto (5), Nesta (5), Favalli (6); Poborsky (9), Giannichedda (6) Simeone (7), Stankovic (7) Fiore (7); S.Inzaghi (8).

Substitutes: Cesar (6), D.Baggio (7).


Karel Poborsky

?

Star Man

?The former ?Manchester United man rolled back the years for potentially his best performance since the 90s in his last ever game in Italy. His first goal was a sign of things to come, with him hellbent on stopping Inter winning the title, thundering a volley into the bottom corner. 

For his second, on the stroke of halftime, the Czech maestro read the ?Inter defender Vratislav Gresko’s intentions before sneaking in to intercept a header intended for the Inter keeper to stun the champions-elect. 2-2 at half-time.

His second strike energised the Lazio team and they came out a totally different side in the second half. 

It’s reported that a call from Juventus player Pavel Nedved before the game inspired his performance.


INTER

Key? Talking Point

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Widely considered the best team in Serie A that season, ?Inter came into the game fully believing they were going to win the title.

Throughout the season, they’d relied on the play of Nicola Ventola and Mohamed Kallon, who had performed excellently in tandem while Vieri and Ronaldo both struggled with injuries. Alongside this mix of players and Hector Cuper’s tactics, Inter were playing dynamic football. 

However, on this day, Inter had a full roster of their stars available to them but they conspired to forget how to defend with a dreadful second-half display and hand the title to Turin. 


Inter Player Ratings

Starting XI: Toldo (5); J.Zanetti (5), Cordoba (5), Materazzi (4), Gresko (3); Conceição (5), Di Biagio (6) C.Zanetti (5); Recoba (6) Ronaldo (5); Vieri (6).

Substitutes: Dalmat (6), Emre (5), Kallon (5).


Vratislav Gresko

Worst Performer?

Inter v Roma

Unfortunately for Gresko, he will forever be associated with this breakdown. The left-back was at fault for at least two of the Lazio goals and created his own unfortunate legacy. 

It was so bad for the Slovak, he was shipped out of club in the summer to Parma and what’s worse, Gresko then had to spend three years at ?Blackburn Rovers.


Things That Aged the Worst

Inter Inter v RomaX

The pace of the game. ?Serie A was known for having a slower tempo, focussing on a tactical battle and defensive solidarity.

Perhaps it was the Roman heat of May but the game is being played as if it’s a friendly. It beggars belief that Inter were playing for the title.  


Things That Aged the Best?

Inter Milan's Alvaro Recoba of Uruguay s

?Pretty much everything else. The kits. El Fenomeno. Football Italia on Channel 4. Forza Italia. 


Players You Completely Forgot Existed

Diego Simeone

Diego Simeone lining up in the Lazio’s sky blue catches you off guard but there are plenty of blasts from the pasts to go around. Marco ‘The Matrix’ Matterazzi, most remembered for taking a forehead to the solar plexus. 

The mercurial Alvaro Recoba, an incredible talent – occasionally in real life, always on PES 3.

There’s plenty more, the teamsheets are a proverbial walk down memory lane. 


What Happened Next?

Ronaldo Nazario - Soccer Player

?This loss created a narrative at ?Inter that they might never win the Scudetto again. Such was the pain felt by Inter fans, it seemed Juventus’ dominance would continue evermore and the gods would continually conspire against the NerazzurriIt took Calciopoli, the match-fixing scandal in Italy, and Juventus’ relegation to breathe new life into the club.

Ronaldo was seen crying on the bench after having been taken off in the 78th minute and ultimately, the Brazilian striker left the club in the summer to signal the end of an era at San Siro.

Alessandro Nesta

It was also the end of an era for Lazio too as financial troubles meant they had to sell their best players, including Alessandro Nesta. 

Gone were the days of blockbuster signings and challenging for league titles as Lazio dealt with the poor management of their former owner Sergio Cragnotti.


Questions?

Ipswich v Inter

?Why did Inter come out so flat in the second half? Why didn’t Inter manager Hector Cuper do more to change it? 

Infamous dodgy referee Gianluca Paparesta was in charge that day – did he have anything to do with the result? Why did Karel Poborsky leave his best performances for the big stages?

We’ll never know…


Let’

Olivier Giroud ‘Rejects’ Chelsea Contract Extension in Latest Inter Shaped Twist

?Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud is believed to have rejected the Blues’ offer of a new contract, with Inter keeping a close eye on the situation.

The Frenchman, whose current deal will expire this summer, was widely expected to leave Stamford Bridge permanently in January after struggling for minutes. 

However, a move to Inter eventually broke down, and he has since managed an impressive run in Frank Lampard’s starting lineup.


?Giroud bagged two goals in his last three league games before play was suspended and has moved well ahead of ?Michy Batshuayi in the pecking order. ?Calciomercato state that ?Chelsea offered him a one-year extension as a result of his impressive form, but Giroud turned it down as he wants two years.

He believes that ?Inter would be willing to offer him such a deal – likely after spending the entirety of January negotiating with the Italian side – so he is reluctant to accept an inferior offer to remain in London.

It is not only Giroud who is in Inter’s sights. Firstly, the report notes that Antonio Conte is ready to push for left-back Marcos Alonso once more.

Marcos Alonso

Alonso was a huge success under Conte at Stamford Bridge, putting in some stunning performances as a wing-back in the boss’ 3-4-3 formation, and it appears as though Inter remain keen to bring him in.

However, the fear is that Blues director Marina Granovskaia will make things too difficult during negotiations. Alonso is still under contract until 2023, so even though he’s not an indispensable first-team regular, Chelsea have no urgent need to sell.

Finally, Inter are also open to making Victor Moses’ loan move permanent this summer. Since joining in January, the Nigerian international has made seven appearances in all competitions and appears to have done enough to convince Conte.

Victor Moses

His loan contract does contain a €10m option to buy, but it is thought that Inter will refuse to pay that amount – especially if they find themselves shelling out on Alonso.

Instead, Inter will likely try to strike a double deal for both Alonso and Moses, in the hope that their wish to sign the latter will persuade Chelsea to lower their asking price for the former.


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