Juventus fall to neighbours Torino overshadowed by fan behaviour
Torino fans had to wait 20 years, but after so much suffering they finally managed to play Juventus and win, defeating the Old Lady 2-1 in front of their home fans.
It's been a magnificent year for both Turin clubs, especially on a European level. Torino manager Giampiero Ventura, despite the sales of his star assets last summer, continues to amaze with his ability to regenerate and motivate a side that boasts wonderful squad spirit despite their inferior technical ability. Managing rather-outstanding displays in the Europa league, against the likes of Athletic Bilbao and Zenit St Petersburg, the club and their tactician deserve praise for a season in which they've accumulated impressive results.
Juventus, too, deserve praise for a stunning season in which the title is all but guaranteed. Having reached the final of the Coppa Italia and made it to the last four of the Champions League, they have surpassed expectations and Turin can be a proud footballing city.
Or can they?
While the clubs are living up to their potential, the fans let the city and Italian football fan down with their inexcusable behaviour prior to the start of the match. Football will never be a mere sport in a country where tribalism is very much alive and kicking. The Bianconeri's team bus was yet again pelted with rocks, bottles and more as it arrived at the stadium, causing damage but no injuries. Meanwhile, inside the Stadio Olimpico di Torino, a firework seemingly thrown from the Juventus section into the Curva Primavera exploded, injuring at least 10.
At a time when Italian football is celebrating its excellence on the field despite the decline of the brand and the lack of investment, the fans continue in their attempts to force stagnation and perhaps even regression. Calcio can never hope to evolve and grow when fans are still creating a hostile environment in the stadium and on the streets, putting off the many families and fans who want to attend matches in a peaceful manner.
Those who did go to the match were at least treated to an exciting game and an unlikely result. Based on performance alone, Juventus didn't deserve to lose but a side usually so capable at managing games and their energy levels disappointed with their inaccuracy and immaturity. Too often they felt the pressure and relinquished possession easily, when the game called for assured performances on the ball and calm, intelligent build-up to preserve energy. Instead, the Bianconeri often panicked, suffering as the home side pressed high up the pitch.
Ventura explained his side believed in the win but it wasn't their determination that led to success but rather their ability to expose and exploit Juve's weaknesses, proving efficient on an afternoon in which Juventus hit the woodwork three times. By putting their opponents under pressure, the Granata won back possession in advantageous possession, counter-attacking with determination to scare Max Allegri's men.
The visitors looked to have settled into the game as the first half progressed and Andrea Pirlo delivered another spectacular goal -- a splendid free kick to open the scoring -- and it appeared Juve's quality was making the difference. That is until Matteo Darmian equalised in stunning fashion as the Old Lady's defence fell asleep.
With Carlos Tevez and Alvaro Morata struggling to make an impact, Juventus lacked that clinical efficiency up top. Arturo Vidal was once again careless with his play while Patrice Evra's absence was felt heavily. Allegri had to rotate his squad to keep his men fresh and ready, but on this occasion the absence of certain players weakened the side more than it should have.
Playing with confidence and composure, it didn't take long before Torino were in the lead with Fabio Quagliarella scoring his side's second early in the second half. Allegri, in a desperate attempt to allow for more attacking fluidity, introduced Tevez but the Argentine is yet to recover completely from a thigh injury, and that was quickly made apparent.
The desperate desire to score left Juventus exposed too often as they failed to find the right balance to the game. An afternoon in which a little luck would have made all the difference, Juventus fell to their city rivals, who played a well organised and efficient tactical game.
A defeat is always difficult to swallow but with the club setting its sights on higher targets and the title still virtually guaranteed, Allegri can rest easy. His side did not manage the game well but as long as they do in the matches that matter, they can be forgiven on this occasion.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.