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The last minute heroic from ‘El Pipita’ saves the Bianconeri in Derby della Mole

Photo: Getty Images
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Gonzalo Higuain saves the day for Juventus but Torino’s determination wins the hearts.

The reporters in the press-box had already started to pen down the headline for the match, and each of the headlines was on the heroics of ‘Il Toro’ in the opponent’s den, but when there is a man called ‘El Pipita’ in the ranks of ‘The old lady’, then waiting untill the last minute is an act of wisdom.

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A stunner at the eleventh hour and all the notework became scrapwork in no time! Yes, that’s why you spend almost hundred million, for nights like this. Massimiliano Allegri’s men remain unbeaten in J Stadium this season via the million dollar strike from their Argentine ace.

The 144th Turin derby promised much and one would not deny that it also lived upto the expectation. It may not was a treat to the eyes but there was no lack of events.

The initial exchanges of the match remained evenly poised but the first real chance came to Torino’s wonderboy Andrea Belotti who volleyed the ball wide of Juve’s goal. A bit more precision was what was expected from a man in fight for the Capocannoniere.

Massimiliano Allegri fielded pretty much his ‘B’ team in the Turin derby resting many of his crucial players for the upcoming UCL match against Monaco. Buffon, Chiellini, Alex Sandro, Pjanić and Higuain were the notable exclusions and Sinisha Mihajlović’s men left no stone unturned in taking a toll of this second stream Juve side.

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The first real chance of the game came to Juventus, on the 14th minute. Paolo Dybala’s corner curled into the box and Bayern loanee Benatia headed the ball beautifully which hit the crossbar. The ball rebounded and fell to Bonucci’s big boots who surprisingly hit the sphere above the open net much to the despair of Michel Platini sitting in the VIP box.

On the 27th minute, Juve built a breath-taking counter attack as Dybala passed the ball to Cuadrado down the wings who gallopped along the right flank and set an inch-perfect cross for Mandžukić. But the side footed shot of the onrushing Croat went above the bar.

Juventus won a freekick on the half hour mark from around 25 yards out. Dybala took it, rather passed it to Lichsteiner who aimed the ball towards the goal with utmost power demanding an acrobatic Joe Hart save. The English custodian of Il Toro has really been the best performer on the field for them tonight.

Just a minute after this, Torino went in a fast counter, Zapacosta put a venomous cross to Belotti in the penalty box but the timely tackle by Leonardo Bonucci saved Neto’s goal from any potential threat.

The half ended by a brilliant build-up play by Dybala & Co. The former teammate of Andrea Belotti in Palermo had an open net before him but the timely dive by Joe Hart spared Torino from a potential peril. The first half thus ended with the deadlock remaining to be broken.The second half began on a fast note with both sides showing their fierceness.

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On the 52nd minute Torino won a freekick from a distance of about 25 yards or so. Ljajić took it, a world class freekick it was, the final shelter of which could only be the goal and did happen so. Torino struck the first blood from the set-piece in the Turin derby, the sixth consecutive time Juve have failed to maintain a cleansheet in this duel!

Sensing the danger, Max Allegri brought his marquee signing Gonzalo Higuain into the field.

Scenes in the derby got heated up soon. On the 56th minute Acquah finely challenged Mandžukić, but he fell dramatically down. The referee initially kept the play on but then seeing the big Croat remaining fallen he whistled and surprisingly booked Acquah for the second time in the game sending him off. The replay clearly showed that it was a legitimate tackle. It was just one of the many nervy moments from the ref that he will exhibit in the span of ninety minutes.

Torino boss Sinisha Mihajlović was very close to the scene and got furious at the decision and intruded the field gibberishing the match officials. The stands could be his only address after this behaviour and he was given marching orders as expected. Torino went a man down with a goal in hand to save!

After going down to ten men, much to the contrary of the prevailing notion, Torino kept their prominence being felt. But Allegri’s men were slowly grasping the tie.

On the 67th minute Paolo Dybala, who has recently vowed his future at Turin set a beautiful ball for Sami Khedira with much delicacy who just had to strike the ball into the open net. Much to the disbelief of the homecrowd, the World Cup winning German hit it much above the crossbar, a miss that could easily get qualified as a ‘sin’ has Juventus lost the tie. Joe Hart and the Torino faithful heaved a sigh of relief!

As the clock kept ticking, flurry of attacks kept arriving at Torino box but it all fell short due to lack ofinnovation and above all, precision. The eyes of the European Cup winner with Red Star Belgrade sitting in the stands started to get illuminated in hope of an unexpected victory in the enemy’s soil.

But as the saying goes ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going’, in moments like this men with nerves of steel are required and Massimiliano Allegri fortunately had one!

On the 92nd minute as Gonzalo Higuain netted the ball from a 90 degree turn, it epitomised precision and class. The strike eclipsed the beauty of Ljajić’s freekick. There would be more beautiful goals that Higuain would score, but what set this apart was the moment of the strike.

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As the final whistle was blown, the bodies of the Il Toro warriors fell on the ground, the joy of the potential victory has been turned into a doomed moment beyond tolerable agony.

The stage was set for Torino, two days after the anniversary of the darkest day in the history of the club as well as Italian football-the Superga Air disaster, a victory could have been the fitting tribute to the lost souls but destiny had something else in store!

A win might not have been possible but they can still take pride in their valiant efforts of becoming the first team to return from the J Stadium with a point this season. They must know that they have been halted by a goal, scoring which even their great Valentino Mazzola would have been proud of.