by Michael Pearson
In 1967, Juve and Inter were Italy’s two most famous and successful clubs. In tribute, legendary journalist Gianni Brera named the fixture “Derby d’Italia” (The Derby of Italy) and it has been so called ever since.
However, this wonderfully affectionate summation contradicts. Juventus and Internazionale loathe each other. Theirs is a fierce cross city rivalry, steeped in animosity, jealousy, bitterness and controversy.
The feud dates back to the 1960/1 campaign and a famous Juventus win.
In April of 1961, Inter arrived in Turin 4 points behind Juventus with 2 games to play. They knew a win would put them back in with a chance of the title.
The Juve fans greeted this fixture with great enthusiasm. So many fans turned up for the game (far more than the stadium could hold), that about 5,000 fans spilled out of the stands to watch the game from the sidelines. Some even sat on the Inter bench to view the game!
Inevitably, this had huge consequences. When Juve hit the post, a number of fans invaded the pitch.
The referee abandoned the game (after 31 minutes) and Inter were awarded with a 2-0 victory
(a recognised resolution at the time).
Astonishingly, the day before the last game of the season, The Italian Football Federation decided to reverse the decision and demand the game be replayed.
Inter were stunned and infuriated. They lost 2-0 at Catania and the title went to Juventus. In a staggering conflict of interest, Juve President, Umberto Agnelli, was also the Supremo of the Football Federation.
Inter President Angelo Moratti, was livid at Federation, and felt that their decision was influenced by Agnelli. In protest, Moratti ordered Inter Coach, Helenio Herrera, to field the Primavera (Youth team) for the meaningless replay – to highlight the travesty.
The rerun was a farce. Juve won 9-1! – humiliating Inter. Striker Sivori scored 6! The historic encounter also marked the final appearance of Juventus icon – Giampiero Boniperti, and the debut of a future Inter icon -Sandro Mazzola (he scored Inter’s goal).
The momentous match instantly became the talk of Italy and was named ‘La Partita Fantasma’
(The Phantom Game).
Last Saturday night, the adversaries met at the Juventus Stadium. Again Juve were top 4 points clear of Inter- and unbeaten in 49 games.
It took just 18 seconds for controversy and injustice to spark a sensational game. Juventus midfielder Asamoah was clearly offside when he squared the ball to Arturo Vidal, who opened the scoring.
Inter emerged from their shells and began to create chances, but their cynicism was compoundedTwo huge decisions went against them. They themselves had a goal disallowed for offside, and Juventus full-back Stephan Lichtsteiner, who had already been booked, inexplicably avoided a red card for a completely mistimed tackle. Sheepishly, Lichtsteiner was subbed just 2 minutes later.
In an even and enthralling contest, both teams traded insults, fouls, and chances as Juve led at Half-time. The pattern continued into the 2nd half.
It was pure theatre.
Goal line referee Orsato was hit in the back of the neck, by a rolled up ball of card. He seized the limelight by milking the medical attention, but in truth nobody could blame him for wanting to be part of this spellbinding occasion. Moments later, Orsato did his job expertly. He awarded Inter a deserved penalty, for Marchisio’s tug on Milito. Milito emphatically scored from the spot.
Juventus continued to create chances on the counter-attack, but Inter’s tails were up, and they were soon 2-1 in front. On 76 minutes, substitute Fredy Guarin flew past Chiellini, goalkeeper Buffon brilliantly saved his stinging shot, only for a gleeful Milito to sweep home.
Juventus admirably came storming back at Inter. Handanovic saved a Pirlo screamer. Bendtner was unlucky not to score, as he curled a shot from the byline. In the 90th minute, Quagliarella hit a fierce snapshot agonisingly wide.
As Juve desperately poured forward, they allowed Nagatomo to go on a blistering counterHe played a precision pass through to Palacio who made it 1-3.
Scenes of euphoria followed. Juve’s unbeaten run ends at 49. More so Inter are now only a point behind them in the race for the Scudetto.
Interistas will see this as revenge for ‘The Phantom Game’, but it was so much more.
A famous, famous night.