Transfer Talk 3 hours ago
Viewers tuned in on Sky Italia on Sunday might have been forgiven for thinking they'd pushed the wrong button and had ended up on ESPN Classic by mistake.
Telecom's chief executive had been Marco Tronchetti Provera, one of Inter's more high-profile board members, and the simple fact the 2006 scandal had been revealed through wire-tappings pushed many in the direction of believing Inter and some dark forces - insert your own version of that thing on pots and kettles here - had been at work to conspire in favour of the Nerazzurri.
All of this meant the meeting on Sunday evening could be potentially explosive. Vitriol was in abundance in the stands, irony having given way to insults, some of them racist - calling Ibrahimovic a gypsy, for example, especially after the controversial and tragic events of the past week in Italy. That the mountain of expectations and hype generated such a brilliant match, with no crowd trouble - and a real crowd, actually - was just short of a miracle under the current climate in the country.
Inter should probably have won after failing twice to add to their first half lead, but Juventus, who have now held all the other top three sides to a draw, gave a wonderful display of grit, passion and heart in fighting back.
The only nasty moments in an otherwise clean match were Pavel Nedved's kick at Figo's right leg - which resulted in a broken fibula for the Portuguese - and some rugged confrontation between Ibrahimovic and Juve's central defender Giorgio Chiellini, who at one point seemed to lash out at the Swedish striker with an outstretched arm while jumping for a 50-50 ball, with Ibrahimovic apparently getting retribution with a slap right after the final whistle.
Juve should have had a penalty in the first half when Ivan Cordoba wrestled Alessandro Del Piero to the turf a few yards from goal, but apart from that controversial moment there were no disputed calls by referee Gianluca Rocchi, who'd done a good job at the Roma-Lazio derby in midweek.
Both sides went with a 4-4-2, but Juventus kept their back four 'high', as tactical experts would say: they obviously did not want to leave any room for Inter's midfielders, and Ibrahimovic, to run with the ball into. The visitors fell into Juve's offside trap 14 times, but scored the only time Juventus defenders - namely, right back Zdenek Grygera - did not keep his concentration, allowing Julio Cruz to chest down and send past Gigi Buffon a wonderfully chipped pass by Cesar, who had strayed far from his regula position on the left after a corner kick.
Juve's goal owed more to a twist of fate, when Cristian Chivu slipped, allowing Vincenzo Iaquinta to head back to another substitute, German Camoranesi, whose low shot was deflected past Julio Cesar by Walter Samuel's heel.
Inter had better quality overall, in keeping with the depth and skill of their squad, but Juventus, short of invention in central midfield where summer acquisitions Almiron and Tiago have failed to perform with any consistency, showed some flashes of potential on the flanks, especially with Raffaele Palladino (it was his cross that set up Juve's equaliser), as indeed did Inter when they found the congestion in the middle of the park too hard to overcome.
Now that the fury, the hype and the vitriol have subsided, the only long-term conclusion we can come to is that the draw confirmed the status quo.
Inter are the best side in Italy, blessed with a physical presence and a reserve of talent that no one else in the Serie A possess, but Juventus, by all accounts a newly promoted side despite fielding four World Champions, may be closer to achieving a Champions League place for next season than most observers would have expected.
And let others toy with conspiracy theories next time.