Italian football fans didn’t have to wait long for the much anticipated first Derby d’Italia of the 1996-97 campaign. Roy Hodgson’s Inter would travel to Turin in week six of the new season in buoyant mood; they were undefeated and sat one point ahead of their bitter rivals going into their clash on 20 October 1996. As for Marcello Lippi’s Juventus, they too had enjoyed an impressive start to the season, albeit a blip in week five had seen the Bianconeri crash to a surprise 2-1 defeat away at Venezia.
Inter started the brighter in the highly unintimidating Stadio Delle Alpi, spraying the ball around confidently. The hosts looked very much at home—Hodgson’s side should have taken the lead early on, as a deep free-kick found the head of Inter’s French defender Jocelyn Angloma, only for him to head wide from close range.
Juve were desperately trying to get a Frenchman of their own on the ball to make things happen. New signing from Bordeaux Zinedine Zidane was becoming more influential in the game and, after taking the Inter defence for a dance, he set up Alen Boksic who blazed over Gianluca Pagliuca’s goal. Despite the nervy start Juve eventually settled and Boksic was the architect of another chance, swinging an inviting ball in from the right only for the under-pressure Michele Padovano to head over.
With Juventus beginning to take control of the game the Delle Alpi held its breath, Pagliuca desperately screaming at his team mates to construct a wall, as Zidane, Padovano and Vladimir Jugovic menacingly stood over a free-kick from 20 yards. In the end Zidane looked for the cute curl into the top corner, though his effort was high, wide and anything but handsome.
Paolo Montero’s sheer grit and determination down the left gifted him the perfect crossing opportunity, sending an inch perfect ball towards Boksic. The Croat threw himself at the ball, heading past Pagliuca only for the upright to keep the scores level. Juventus smelled blood and just five minutes before the break they took a deserved lead, a neat one-two with Padovano on the edge of the box seeing Jugovic open his account for the season as he smashed the ball past the helpless Pagliuca.
Inter started the second half much the same as the first: at 100mph. And, had it not been for Angelo Peruzzi’s left-hand post, the Nerazzurri would have been level. Just as Inter came close to levelling, Juve almost put the game out of sight. Alen Boksic was sent clean through, rounded Pagliuca and seemed certain to score, however he could only look on as his effort was desperately cleared off the line.
With the Juventus corner count quickly adding up, it was only a matter of time before they doubled their lead, and just after the hour mark they doubled it in style. Inter made a meal of clearing the initial corner and the ball fell to Zidane some 25 yards out. The young Frenchman took aim and fired a blockbuster of a left foot shot past the diving Pagliuca into the net putting Lippi’s side out of site.
Two very nearly became three as Boksic got the best out of Pagliuca; this time the Italian goalkeeper was equal to the long-range effort. Moments after, Boksic nearly made it two. As yet another Juventus corner came in, the ball fell to Ciro Ferrara just eight yards out, yet he somehow managed to crash the ball off the underside of the cross bar as Padovano looked on in disbelief wishing the chance had fallen to him instead.
2-0 was how it finished as Juventus walked away with a deserved and vital three points. They went on to clinch the 1996-97 title, finishing just two points clear of Parma and six ahead of Inter.
Juventus host Inter once again this weekend in the second intriguing Derby d’Italia of the season. Frank de Boer’s Inter saw off Juventus 2-1 at the San Siro back in September; now under the watchful eye of Stefano Pioli, Inter will be looking for a repeat performance. On a magnificent run of seven games undefeated, Pioli’s side will be bursting with confidence going into this one. As for Juventus it was business as usual last weekend as they comfortably saw off Sassuolo 2-0. With Inter’s remarkable current form and Juve back to winning ways we should be in for an absolute treat come Sunday night.
Words by Giovanni Dougall @giovannid86