Juve restore some local pride as academy products tame bullish Toro

RESULTS Sat 1 Dec Juventus 3-0 Torino Sun 2 Dec Napoli 5-1 Pescara, Genoa 2-4 Chievo, Bologna 2-1 Atalanta, Inter 1-0 Palermo, Lazio 2-1 Parma, Siena 1-3 AS Roma, Udinese 4-1 Cagliari, Fiorentina 2-2 Sampdoria.

Torino have been eagerly  waiting for three years to get stuck into Juventus, though the latter would perhaps not express the same enthusiasm for the return of the Turin Derby, believing their true rivalry instead lies some 85 miles down the A4 autostrada in Milan. However, having already lost to Inter and AC Milan this season, the Bianconeri could not afford to lose face against their nearest neighbours, who had returned from another stint in Serie B.

The Derby della Mole - a reference to the Mole Antonelliana museum which juts out over the city roofs - has traditionally been associated with the class divide. Juventus are said to represent the wealth and power, while Toro’s roots are grittier and almost exclusively from the inner areas and surrounding districts.

It was the fixture that fired the nation’s love of football, being the first match to be broadcast live on radio in 1929 at the dawn of what was to become the dominant period of Il Grande Torino. That team would, of course, be tragically decimated by the Superga air crash in 1949, which in turn heralded the rise of the post-war all-conquering Agnelli-Fiat backed Juventus.

Toro were heading for this fixture with some trepidation, having not come out on top against their rivals since 1995, and the club were none too pleased to have been handed only 2,099 tickets to fill one corner of the Juventus stadium, which had replaced the city’s other old relic the Stadio Delle Alpi. In fact, around 500 tickets remained unsold as visiting fans decided that they would never darken the door of their enemy, feeling that Juve had been given all the help they needed by the city council to redevelop their own stadium while Toro’s long-held dream to rebuild their beloved Filadelfia had laid in ruins.

But the bitterness is felt on the pitch, as well as off it: in the early 90s Toro defender Pasquale Bruno - who had also played for Juve - was banned for five games after living up to his nickname “The Animal”. He refused to leave the pitch when red-carded, turning his anger not only the officials, but also his team-mates in what is still considered one the greatest meltdowns in Italian football.

A decade later Juventus midfielder Enzo Marseca celebrated scoring a late equalizer by imitating the bull horns celebration of Toro striker Marco Ferrante, who had netted earlier in the game, as he raced past the opposition bench, leading to a right old touchline furore.

On the face of it, it looked as if Juve would be flashing la corna again. Despite their defeat at Milan the previous weekend, they were still top of the table, while Toro were only four points off the relegation zone and had only won once in eight games. Captain and top goalscorer Rolando Bianchi had not scored since September, while his regular partner in attack, Gianluca Sansone, last found the net a month ago. In fact, nine of the team’s fifteen goals had come from midfielders or defenders.

However, Giampiero Ventura’s side had become something of the draw specialists, having held high-flying Lazio, Napoli and Fiorentina.

It would need some water-tight defending this time around but the flashpoint came on 35 minutes. Toro‘s Kamil Glik challenged Juve winger Emanuele Giaccherini with a lunging tackle which, despite taking place near the half-way line, was deemed dangerous enough to warrant a straight red card. The central defender had ended up in hospital last weekend after a clash of heads with Luca Toni, and the Polish hardman had obviously still not come to his senses as he flew feet-up, horizontally through the air to claim the ball and his diminutive opponent in one fell swoop. In the post-game interviews everyone, bar those in the Toro camp, agreed was worth at least a couple of reds.

There is no doubt Glik’s moment of madness turned the course of the game, which had been goalless up until that stage, with the Bianconeri finding it difficult to make in-roads against a confident Toro, who themselves almost broke the deadlock early on, with Ricccardo Meggiorini flicking his close-range effort wide of Gigi Buffon and the post. At the other end, Torino keeper Jean Francois Gillet allowed a Paolo De Ceglio cross to slip out of his hands, but as Paul Pogba was about to pounce, the referee blew for an infringement.

Down to ten men, Toro were forced to adopt an even more defensive siege mentality, but there was plenty of time for Juve to make the breakthrough. They even had time to miss a penalty when Pogba went down under a challenge from Migjen Basha, with Andrea Pirlo blazing his spot-kick well over the bar.

It was left to the home-grown talent to finally give an edgy crowd something to cheer about and release the pressure inside the ground. Claudio Marchisio and Sebastian Giovinco had both come through the academy ranks, as had De Ceglio, and had all played in youth derbies, so it was perhaps fitting that they were the central figures in determining the final outcome.

It was Giovinco’s quick delivery that found Marchisio racing into the area in trademark fashion, with the midfielder heading home the opener just before the hour mark. The little frontman then picked out of the corner of the net for the all-important second, before Marchisio added a third with another crisp finish after Mirko Vucinic had nonchalantly chested the ball into his path.

Toro were a spent force by that stage, but their own youth product Angelo Ogbonna could certainly hold his head high.The 24-year-old central defender demonstrated why the likes of Manchester United are supposedly ready to table a January bid, as he marshalled his beleaguered defence with a steely assurance and coolness than any of the top sides would desire. Toro’s shaky finances and lack of squad depth in other areas will surely see Ogbonna move on, but Juve will be heartened by in the fact that their own new generation is continuing the tradition of the delivering the coup de grace to their bullish neighbours.

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