Mario Mandzukic Goal Sees Juventus, Cristiano Ronaldo Past Inter in Serie A

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2018

Juventus' Croatian forward Mario Mandzukic (L) celebrates with Juventus' Portuguese defender Joao Cancelo after scoring during the Serie A football match Juventus vs Inter Milan at the Stadio delle Alpi in Turin on December 7, 2018. (Photo by Isabella BONOTTO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read ISABELLA BONOTTO/AFP/Getty Images)

Juventus moved 11 points clear at the top of Serie A on Friday as they beat rivals Inter Milan 1-0 in the Derby d'Italia.

While there were no goals in the first period, there were plenty of chances for both sides. Inter's Roberto Gagliardini had the best of them as he hit the post when in behind the Juventus defence.

In the second period Matteo Politano missed a big opportunity to put Inter ahead and was made to pay for his profligacy. After 66 minutes, Mario Mandzukic thudded a header past Samir Handanovic to nudge the Italian champions in front.


Mandzukic Undroppable for Juve's Key Games

Juventus' Croatian forward Mario Mandzukic (R) celebrates after scoring during the Serie A football match Juventus vs InterMilan at the Stadio delle Alpi in Turin on December 7, 2018. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read MARC

When Juventus signed Cristiano Ronaldo and loaned Gonzalo Higuain to AC Milan in the summer, it was anticipated their attack would revolve around the Portuguese and Paulo Dybala. But Mandzukic has continued to prove his worth.

The Croatian has enjoyed a fine campaign after a wonderful FIFA World Cup with his country and continues to do an excellent job in a number of positions for manager Massimiliano Allegri. Whether on the flank or through the middle, he finds ways to be effective.

Mandzukic is also developing a reputation for finding the net in crucial games for Juventus and was on hand to do so again here with the match in a highly precarious position:

Mina Rzouki @Minarzouki

The man who resolves big matches better than most scores Juve's goal, Mario Mandzukic. 1-0 to Juve.

Per Squawka Football, not only was this a huge goal for the 32-year-old against Juve's big rivals, it was a landmark goal in his career too:

Squawka Football @Squawka

Mario Mandžukić has now scored 150 league goals in his career: Serie A (29) Bundesliga (53) LaLiga (12) HNL (56) The epitome of a target man. https://t.co/pIuRrBS5zw

At the moment Dybala is struggling to make an impression in the final third, with the focal point of the attack now unsurprisingly Ronaldo.

However, Mandzukic has provided a reliable foil for the former Real Madrid man and has relished the role of being a facilitator throughout his career. Given he's consistently getting on the scoresheet when it matters most for Juve, one of the game's most underrated forwards is now getting the headlines he deserves.


Extra Ambition Will Push Inter Past Napoli

TURIN, ITALY - DECEMBER 07:  Head coach Luciano Spalletti of Internazionale looks on during the Serie A match between Juventus and FC Internazionale at Allianz Stadium on December 7, 2018 in Turin, Italy.  (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images )
Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Regardless of what happened on Friday, Juventus were always going to remain heavy favourites to win the Serie A title. Meanwhile, Inter are in an exciting battle with Napoli—who they trail by three points after playing a game more—for second place.

At times during his tenure as manager, Luciano Spalletti has been a little rigid in his approach, especially in big games. However, on Friday the Nerazzurri played with a refreshing freedom at the Allianz Stadium.

Italian football journalist Adam Digby praised the way Spalletti's side approached the first period:

Adam Digby @Adz77

HT 0-0. Absolutely wonderful 45 minutes of action, Inter unlucky not to be 1up through Gagliardini. Perisic playing very well, Juve only really threatening on set pieces. Credit referee Irrati who has been excellent too #JuveInter

Although Inter's positivity did leave the back door open at times for Juventus, Inter supporters would have been pleased with the conviction their team showed and the openings they carved out. After all, in Mauro Icardi, Ivan Perisic and Politano, they have gifted forwards who thrive when given freedom.

If they take this approach into other crunch games in Serie A, they have it in them to overhaul Napoli in the race to be crowned best of the rest.


What's next?

Juventus face Young Boys in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday knowing a victory would be enough to see them top their group ahead of Manchester United.

Inter Milan are yet to secure their place in the knockout stages of the competition. They play PSV Eindhoven at the San Siro on Tuesday needing to better Tottenham Hotspur's result in their final game; Spurs visit Barcelona on the same night.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.