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Tevez, defense and a luck with the refs: how Juventus won a fiery derby
In recent years the derby della Mole has always been very unbalanced in terms of team quality. But there was a time when the quality of the two teams was almost the same, and Torino was even better
by Pier Vittorio Mannucci
It might not be the longest running derby in Italian Calcio, like the derby della Lanterna between Genoa and Samp, nor the most prestigious one like Inter-Milan. However, every match between Juventus and Torino (or Juve and Toro, as a true torinese would say) has always been characterized by fierce competition and passionate rivalries between both fans and players.

Since the first match in 1907, the derby della Mole has always had a special meaning for the two teams, which represent two opposites in terms of fan base, tradition and economic power. While Torino was founded after Juventus, the team is perceived to be the “real” team of the city, supported by true torinesi and strongly attached to traditions and the territory. Juventus, on the other side, has historically been the team of the immigrants coming to Turin to work at Fiat, who became supporters of the owner’s team. As of today, the derby della Mole is the most unbalanced among the five serie A derbies, with Juventus having won 63 games against Torino’s 34.

This can be easily explained by the fact that, in the last 20 years, Juventus has always been the richest team, competing for international trophies and always at the top of the Italian Serie A, while Torino has been relegated many times in Serie B and struggled for survival, both under the financial and athletic point of view. There was a time, however, when the quality of the two teams was almost the same, and Torino was ever better: in the 40s, for example, the Grande Torino dominated the Serie A for six consecutive years; in the 60s, the Torino guided by the talent of Gigi Meroni was one of the best teams in Italy, and was not able to sustain that level only because of Meroni’s tragic death in a car accident; in the 70s, finally, Torino competed with Juventus for the scudetto, winning it in 1976 thanks to the prolific tandem of strikers formed by Pulici and Graziani. In the same period, saw Torino winning a great number of derbies, while Juventus was unable to prevail for six consecutive years (1973-1979).

While in recent years the derby della Mole has always been very unbalanced in terms of team quality, at the eve of yesterday’s match the story was quite different: Juventus was dominating serie A, and this is not big news; what was new, however, was Torino’s placement, with the team fighting for a place in Europa League. Combined, Juventus and Torino summed more points that the teams from Milan, Rome and Genoa, and that’s big news. What didn’t change, however, was the agonistic intensity displayed the players, in a derby characterized as always by intense emotions and also by harsh recriminations.

The first surprise of the match is Torino’s attitude: Ventura opts for not adopting the usual, relentless pressing in favor of a more conservative tactic, letting Juventus control ball possession (55-45% at the end) and trying to contrast the bianconeri with a solid and dense half-court defense with continuous double-teams, always looking for fast counterattacks. In the first 30 minutes Torino creates two good opportunities with El Kaddouri and Immobile, while Juventus players seem unable to create any relevant trouble to Torino’s defense, with one major exception: Carlitos Tevez. His first shot on goal is neutralized by Padelli but, at his second attempt, the Apache gets his scalp with a great shot from the limit of the penalty area: 1-0 for Juventus, and an uphill game for Toro.

Torino presses and tries to close Juventus in midcourt, but its attempts are frustrated by two factors that will prove decisive for Juventus win: solid defense and refs’ mistakes. Torino seems unable to get past the effective trio formed by Barzagli, Bonucci and Caceres, with Buffon who stays almost inactive for the entire first half. Right at the end, however, Arturo Vidal, who already got a yellow card, touches the ball with his hand at the limit of the penalty area: a second yellow would mean ejection, but the ref, Rizzoli, lets it go, and Juventus ends the first half safely up 1-0.

The second half starts like the first one, with Torino waiting and Juventus controlling the game. Torino is more aggressive (at the end of the game, it will have 17 tackles against 12, and 15 fouls against 12, with 62% aerial success against Juventus 38%), but seems unable to worry Buffon. The only emotion comes 10’ before the hand, when El Kaddouri is kicked by Pirlo in the penalty zone: it seems a clear penalty, but Rizzoli doesn’t call it, even showing the yellow card to an outraged El Kaddouri. The sensation of having been robbed seems to wake Torino up and, in the last minutes, they increase the pressure and try to even the game, but with no end: Juventus wins the derby.

The key for its success were mainly three: first, the talent of its best player, Carlitos Tevez, able to score a fundamental goal in a very tactical game characterized by a great equilibrium and scarcity of goal opportunities; second, the usual great defense, able to neutralize Torino’s wings, particularly Cerci, almost ineffective during this game; last, but not least, a certain amount of luck in refs’ decisions, with Rizzoli who decided in Juventus favor in the two key calls of the match, being wrong in at least one case.

Among Torino supporters’ vehement protests, the derby della Mole is finally over: for Juventus is just another brick on the road to scudetto; for Torino, it is the continuation of a non-winning curse that has been lasting for 19 years.

Monday, February 24 th, 2014
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