April 1979: As Internazionale and Juventus meet at San Siro, the sides are level on points. The hosts eke out the visitors on goal difference. Both, though, are unhappy with their position, sitting a respective fourth and fifth in the Serie A. With six matchdays remaining Milan are four points ahead. Only the winners could reasonably hope to catch them.
Nearly half of the Italian World Cup winning squad of 1982 is on display. Six future champions lace their boots for Juve in this match, four feature for Inter. The two coaches who would help shape this emerging generation of Italian talent were recent managerial additions for their clubs. Eugenio Bersellini had only just taken over as the Nerazzurri head coach in the summer of ‘77. In his first season in charge, Inter finished fifth but claimed their first Coppa since 1939.
Giovanni Trapattoni had a year’s head start on Bersellini. In 77/78, his second of ten seasons in Torino had netted the second consecutive Scudetto. Of 30 matches the Bianconeri only lost one. Defence was their claim to fame. A stretch from late November ‘77 to mid March ‘78 saw Juve concede just two goals in 16 league matches, one coming via penalty. Goals were hard to come by at both ends of the pitch. Roberto Bettega was the team’s top goal scorer with just 11 goals to his name. For contrast: young Paolo Rossi had netted 24 times for Vicenza.
This was to be the second of four meetings of the season, as the sides were scheduled to clash in the Coppa quarter-finals. The first leg in the league had produced a 1-all draw at the Delle Alpi.
Juve deliberate, score early
Juve take control right away to set a slow, deliberate pace. Scirea brings play up from the back, Causio spreads it around in the opponent’s half. Inter had initially shown a high press, but sit back after a few minutes to anticipate Scirea’s movement up the middle. Going forward Inter are more direct than the visitors, trying to get it out to the wings and into the first line of attack as quickly as possible.
Even via throw-in, as Pasinato demonstrates, sending Muraro down the right wing. The latter takes it past Cabrini simply by pace, and looks for the cut back pass. Altobelli is there at the near post, five yards out. The centre forward receives the ball, turns, and shoots, missing the far bottom corner by inches (6’).
Juventus favour their right wing. Fanna tucks in, Cuccureddu provides width on the overlap. Causio drifts over as well. Cabrini on the left is less adventurous, accounting for Muraro’s explosiveness. Juve hold a high back-line. Gentile is tasked to mark Beccalossi, which pulls the defender forward even further. Scirea sweeps up behind everybody.
At the quarter hour mark, Bettega is brought down just outside the box by Baresi. Causio had set up the attack with a beautiful 50 yard pass diagonally across the pitch. The committee standing over the free kick decide to play a short roller for a Cuccureddu belter. It sneaks through the wall, leaving Bordon with no time to react, 0:1.
Inter push, Juve retreat
Juve now look to take the pace out of the game altogether. They don’t attempt to stifle Inter’s forward movement, retreat even in their own half, and pull everyone bar Bettega back. Inter don’t need long to shake the goal off. The hosts earn a series of corners and free kicks around the visitor’s box, but most efforts either stray off target or are blocked. Virdis is off injured midway through the first half. New man Furino, moments after coming on, introduces himself with a crucial stop on Oriali just outside the box. Inter’s attacking pattern is to look for the cutback pass from high on the wing into the central zone 20 yards out. However, that tactic produces few actual attempts on goal.
Diagonal runs prove more dangerous, as a double chance after half an hour demonstrates. In quick succession Beccalossi finds Altobelli with a lobbed pass. The latter, having lost his marker after a darting run into the box, can only produce an artistic flick which is neither shot nor pass. The second ball comes round to Pasinato on the right wing, who finds Oriali at the far post. He had been freed up by Altobelli moving away, pulling two defenders. Zoff is down quick to spoil Oriali’s decent header, preventing the equalizer.
Having gone up early, Juve hardly produce anything noteworthy for the rest of the first half. They can’t find their man in the first line as service for Bettega is lacking. Not being able to pull down many long passes to begin with, Bettega finds himself alone against two or three Inter defenders when he actually does get a boot on the ball.
Furino mirrors Fanna, proving more attacking midfielder than winger. Perhaps this is a reaction to Inter. By default the back-line sets up much the same way as Juve’s with Bini in the mop up role. Everybody, in turn, is free to venture forward. Pasinato sets up shop in Juve’s half, while the entire back line often pushes up as far as five yards past the mid-line. Most of the play is created from the Bini, Baresi, Oriali, Marini rectangle in the center.
Problems arise once Inter close in on Juve’s defensive perimeter, 20-25 yards out. Juve are alert, create 2 on 1 advantages, and poke away most passes before they reach their intended recipient. Tardelli hovers around that central area, ready to pounce on horizontal passes, catching a lot. It needs intense focus, but to be fair, Juve don’t seem all too bothered with this. Cynically speaking, they have their goal, now they just have to ride out the match and hold on to the lead.
Should all strings tear, they still have the safe hands of Dino Zoff to rely on.
Zoff holds out as long as possible
Shortly after the break, Bini is not hindered bringing the ball up into Juve’s half. He tries to find Beccalossi at the edge of the box, but Brio gets to the pass first, deflecting it up and over the defence. Beccalossi reacts quickest, Scirea goes in for the challenge somewhat awkwardly, Beccalossi skips past him effortlessly. By now, though, he’s almost on the goal line. Zoff plays the angle and blocks the shot (48’).
Soon after, all strings do tear. Baresi had ventured forward, and gets the ball from Marini. Scirea comes out to meet him, but Baresi plays a one-two with Altobelli outside the box to by-pass the defender. One on one with Zoff, he pulls the trigger quicker than the keeper can come out, and scores the equalizer (55’).
Minutes later Inter are awarded a free kick just by the left corner flag. Gentile had brought down Beccalossi hard, after the playmaker had surged past him on the wing. With almost everybody waiting in the box, Pasinato opts for the short version around the back to Baresi, who chips the ball into the box with the outside of his boot. Somebody gets a head on it, but Fontolan has another go from outside. His shot takes multiple deflections, and falls to Beccalossi 10 yards out. Becca stabs home the 2:1 leaving Zoff no chance (58’).
Juve had yet to concede three goals in any match of the season. Here it looked imminent. The next attack saw Oriali free in front of Zoff, but is called back for offside. Within minutes, Oriali puts a shot from 25 yards on target, Zoff pushes it away. Altobelli produces an overhead kick from close range, Zoff is in position and blocks the attempt.
Juve unable to get the attack going again
At this point Juve are equally concerned to stifle Inter’s attack than to get their own offence going, which had settled so neatly into a state of hibernation. Inter remain dangerous on the counter, sending vertical passes over multiple lines for forwards to run onto. They do well to keep Juve out of the final third, regularly giving away calculated free kicks.
One is a bit too close for comfort, and, somewhat forebodingly, in just the position from which Juve had scored in the first half. Though, now obviously on the other end of the pitch… This time it is Fanna blasting a low shot at the near corner. Bordon blocks it but can only spill it up in the air. Tardelli pulls off an overhead kick from close range, forcing a great reaction by Bordon. It is cleared out by Bini, and put straight back in from the left wing by Fanna. Tardelli had just gotten up, now he is airborne again. His diving header pings off the bar. Cabrini takes the ball into the box again, but by now the attack had run out of steam (68’).
Baresi catches Juve’s defence sleeping after a free kick to Inter in their own half. Baresi sends Beccalossi deep with a clear path into the box. Becca jukes past Gentile, shoots off-balance from close range, but the shot lacks placement, allowing Zoff to clear with his foot (78’). It’s more dangerous than anything Juve produce in the closing minutes. Bettega, from a Furino cross, puts a header off target (81’). Tardelli plays Cabrini free into the box, who shoots directly at Bordon, easily punched away (84’). One hardly gets the feeling it is actually Juve chasing the match. And so, unsurprisingly, they can’t pull even again.
In the end both sides were unable to catch up with Milan who won the 78/79 Scudetto. Juve still finished ahead of Inter in the final table, settling into third place one point ahead of the Nerazzurri. Juve also got the last laugh in the Coppa. The first leg of the quarter-finals was played just 11 days after their league meeting: a 3:1 win at home, and 0:1 loss in the return proved good enough to advance. Trapattoni’s side then went on to beat Catanzaro in the semi- and Palermo in the final.
- Man Of The Match: Gabriele Oriali
- Best Hair: Never not Causio
- Viewing Recommendation: Action picks up in the second half, before the break it’s likely about par for what to expect in late 70s Serie A
Footballia has the match neatly seperated into two videos, one for each half of the match. First half can be interesting just for how Juve set up, while the second will be more entertaining. Highlights below. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and you won’t miss any installments in the series.
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