Inter Milan took firm control of the Serie A title race by winning Sunday’s highly-anticipated clash with Juventus 1-0 and moving four points clear of their closest rivals for the Scudetto.
Simone Inzaghi’s side prevailed in a tense but eventful clash at the San Siro thanks to Federico Gatti’s own goal eight minutes before half-time.
Home fans who packed the stands for the biggest match of the season roared in delight as leaders Inter put daylight between themselves and second-placed Juve with their sixth straight win in all competitions.
“It’s a step in a long journey because there are lots of games to go and Juve won’t give up, but it was a great night in front of a great crowd,” said Inzaghi to DAZN.
“It’s hard to find a weakness tonight… we’ve won 18 matches from 22 which is great but we’re only four points ahead of Juve. Napoli were much further ahead at this stage last season.”
Inter also have a game in hand — at home against Atalanta at the end of the month — a big advantage just as they head into a run of tough fixtures featuring their Champions League last-16 tie with Atletico Madrid.
They also travelled to Riyadh last month to win the Italian Super Cup.
Juventus, who on Sunday suffered their second defeat of the season and their first since September, have no European distractions.
Serie A’s two leading goalscorers Lautaro Martinez and Dusan Vlahovic were on the San Siro pitch but it was the unfortunate Gatti who provided the decisive touch.
Inter made most of the running but bumped up against a black and white wall as Juve set up to frustrate the hosts and hit them on the break.
Marcus Thuram thought he was about to put Inter ahead midway through the first half but just as he prepared to sweep home Federico Dimarco’s low cross, Bremer nipped in to take the ball from his toes.
Juve rarely ventured outside their own half in the opening period but Vlahovic could have put them ahead just after the half hour had he not miscontrolled the ball after Weston McKennie’s powerful burst upfield.
But Inter got the stroke of luck they needed in the 37th minute when Nicolo Barella’s cross missed both Benjamin Pavard and Thuram before deflecting over the line off Gatti.
The second half was played at a much faster pace and both teams exchanged half chances until Wojciech Szczesny’s brilliant reaction stop denied Barella from close range in the 69h minute.
The Juventus goalie pulled off another miracle with four minutes remaining when he stopped Marko Arnautovic tucking home Denzel Dumfries’ perfect low cross, but Inter had done enough for a huge win.
“Everyone has negative moments during a season, and it was our turn tonight,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri told DAZN.
“We just need to get past this and focus on our next game with Udinese.”
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia struck a wonder goal to fire ailing champions Napoli to a morale-boosting 2-1 win over struggling Verona.
Georgian star Kvaratskhelia curled home a long-range finish with three minutes remaining at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona to snatch a comeback victory.
Walter Mazzarri’s side are seventh and were temporarily a single point away from Italy’s Champions League positions until fourth-placed Atalanta beat Lazio 3-1.
“When you win like that it’s a great feeling… but in reality, it would’ve been better to take an early lead and get it done without suffering so much,” admitted Mazzarri to DAZN after another underwhelming performance from his team.
Napoli are firmly in the fight for Champions League football but the top four wasn’t their target after their stunning Scudetto triumph last season.
Next weekend Napoli travel to the San Siro to take on AC Milan, a difficult trip for a team who have only won four league matches since Mazzarri took over from Rudi Garcia in November.