An Aaron Ramsey strike and a wonderful individual effort from Paulo Dybala gave Juventus a priceless Derby D'Italia victory, sinking Inter's dwindling title hopes in front of an empty Allianz Stadium.
A tight first half delivered little in the way of goalmouth action, with the play dominated by the deafening silence delivered by the vacant stands, as the coronavirus continues to make its presence felt in Italy.
We all know how truly integral fans are to football. But Juve v Inter tonight absolutely hammers it home.— Adam Summerton (@adamsummerton) March 8, 2020
Everybody feeds off the passion from the stands, and I include myself as a commentator in that
Six points separated the teams at the start of play but there initially looked to be little between them, as they were limited to just a chance apiece before the break. Samir Handanovic was called into action half with a stellar stop to deny Blaise Matuidi, while opposite number Wojciech Szczesny had to be on his toes to deny Lautaro Martinez shortly after.
The first goal did arrive through Ramsey after Cristiano Ronaldo mis-controlled a Matuidi cross, however, before a moment of real magic from substitute Dybala - drifting in from the right and leaving Ashley Young for dead before poking it past
Key Talking Point
Even though the atmosphere didn't show it, it was comfortably Serie A's biggest match of the season - but the enormity of the fixture wouldn't stop the immutable Ronaldo from becoming the centre of attention.
The man some consider to be the greatest ever made his 1,000th senior appearance as he went chasing his 54th Juve goal to keep his side's title challenge on track.
That goal wasn't forthcoming, but in the end it mattered not. Juve stepped up to the plate with a ruthless performance to dismiss one of the challengers to their crown and restore themselves to the top of the division.
It's a win Maurizio Sarri can take serious credit for. His decision to drop Miralem Pjanic to make room for Ramsey, Matuidi and Rodrigo Bentancur took guts, but it paid off as his side dominated the midfield battle. The omission of Dybala also proved to be a masterstroke, with the Argentine having the exact desired effect when called upon from the bench.
In the end, it was a signature Juventus win; and one that could easily prove defining in the context of the season.
Juventus Player Ratings
Starting XI: Szczesny (6); Cuadrado
Subs: Dybala (8), De Sciglio (6), Bernardeschi (6)
It's been a slow start to life in Turin for the Welshman, but in a three-man midfield here, he really showed what he's all about.
Aaron Ramsey has scored in back-to-back league games for the first time since October 2017.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 8, 2020
Finding his feet in Turin. pic.twitter.com/lI7VCGEYVF
Goal and an assist in one of the biggest games of the season. Aaron Ramsey hasn't changed.— Frankie Hobbs (@Frankie_Hobbs) March 8, 2020
He was a constant driving force throughout, and was at the heart of everything positive Juventus did in the final third. He's fast developing into an excellent option for Sarri and will surely be one of the first names on the team-sheet when fit.
Key Talking Point
To stand any chance of prying the title race back into their own hands, Inter simply could not afford to lose this game. To leave empty-handed would have left them staring at a nine point gap between themselves and the leaders, and even with a game in hand, that would have been exceptionally difficult to overcome.
A win was also essential to restore some confidence. Having fallen short to surprise title challengers Lazio in their last league outing, they had to prove to themselves that they were capable of beating their rivals in what is proving to be an enthralling three-way title tussle.
Unfortunately, however, it was another disappointing evening for Antonio Conte's men. They didn't have the quality nor the endeavour to match the relentless drive of Juve. They didn't play particularly badly, but were often guilty of being passive and lacking the fight required to win such a huge match.
Their barren run of Serie A Derby D'Italia clashes without a win extends to seven, and they now have it all to do to salvage any remaining title hopes.
Inter Player Ratings
Starting XI: Handanovic
The experienced keeper has been a big miss for Inter throughout February, but a coronavirus-enforced break from league action has given him time to recover from a minor hand injury, and he was at his inspired best yet again.
15 minutes already enough to remind us how much Inter had missed Handanovic— Nicky Bandini (@NickyBandini) March 8, 2020
Handanovic is what’s keeping us alive bruh— t (@fcimtareq) March 8, 2020
A terrific low stop denied Blaise Matuidi a surefire opener early in the first half and he was a consistent calming influence in what was a damaging night for his side, his composure best evidence when he casually feigned a pass and skipped past Ronaldo midway through the first half. Juve hardly put them to the sword, but you still feel it would have been far worse had their captain not delivered.
Juventus travel to Bologna on Friday before their tilt at European glory continues with a Champions League clash with Lyon in Turin, as they look to overcome a narrow deficit and reach the quarter-finals.
Inter, meanwhile, resume their own European campaign with the visit of Getafe on Thursday, before returning to San Siro to face Sassuolo three days later.