Bonucci stars for Juventus in 2-0 win over Inter Milan in Serie A
Perturbed by managing two consecutive draws, Juventus performed like champions, demonstrating their grit, maturity and superior strength to return to winning ways, defeating Inter Milan 2-0 at home.
The last time these two sides met in the league, the Bianconeri were in 12th place in the table while Inter boasted twice the amount of points, happily sitting in third. Since then, Roberto Mancini's men have experienced a collapse and Sunday's night performance will have only worsened their problems.
Playing a 3-5-2 formation in an effort to mirror Juve's tactics, the Nerazzurri played a concentrated first half, conscious of halting their powerful rivals. The problem was, for all their defensive efforts, they were a side incapable of creating any danger.
An opportunistic club, the Old Lady needed her opponent to lose focus for only a moment to score the opening goal of the night. Leonardo Bonucci, a man clearly enjoying his football and confident after being described as one of Pep Guardiola's favourite players, demonstrated all the weaponry he possesses in his arsenal. A defensive stalwart and offensively capable, he showed great technique to volley past Samir Handanovic.
Demonstrating tactical balance and great composure on the ball, Juve always looked to attack while their opponents simply offered nothing going forward despite possessing the ball for long periods in the second half.
Famed for his excellent substitutions, Massimiliano Allegri sought to put the Nerazzurri under more defensive pressure when he introduced Stefano Sturaro, a man he is teaching how to make runs into the box and Alvaro Morata, the player who scored almost immediately after coming on. The Spaniard's fresh legs and ability to run forward with decent pace further overwhelmed a defence struggling to contain and eventually earned the penalty he perfectly converted.
A side in excellent physical condition and boasting a winning mentality, Juventus knew exactly how to exploit the mediocrity of their opponent and take one step forward to collecting their fifth consecutive league title.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 7 -- A leader who displayed strength when called upon, the manner in which he organises his defence and his ability to make excellent saves makes all the difference. 746 minutes without conceding a goal -- legend.
DF Andrea Barzagli, 7 -- Marvellous clearances coupled with exceptional reading of the game, Barzagli demonstrates again why he is integral to the side.
DF Leonardo Bonucci, 8 -- Another exceptional performance from an exceptional player. The technique showed to score coupled with his fine reading of the game, grit and tenacity makes him an asset, especially in tense matches. He defends with fervour in addition to making a fantastic offensive contributions.
DF Giorgio Chiellini, 6 -- The player offers so much grit to this Juve side but was sadly taken off after just over 30 minutes.
DF Stephan Lichtsteiner, 7 -- Delivered some excellent crosses on the night, he looked in control in defence and eager going forward.
MF Sami Khedira, 6 -- It's not that the German is necessarily playing badly but it's simply that he's not offering what is required from his role: a box-to-box midfielder who can make penetrating runs. Lacking the energy and stamina needed.
MF Hernanes, 7 -- Curbing his instincts and playing a more thoughtful game has brought out the good in the Brazilian who has impressed both against Bayern Munich and Inter on Sunday evening. Determined, he spread the ball well and came close to scoring.
MF Paul Pogba, 6 -- The beauty of Pogba is his pride, he hates making a mistake and always attempts to recover. However, while he's always capable of a beautiful moment, a perfect pass or a wonderful back-heel, he is yet to understand how to balance instinctive play with good decisions. Thought process was too slow.
MF Alex Sandro, 7 -- Wonderfully direct and always determined, he is somewhat capable of an overly aggressive foul but he offers so much going forward.
FW Mario Mandzukic, 7 -- A fighter, he's relentless in his quest to win possession and put his opponent under pressure. Perfect in acting as the first line of defence even if he's still missing something in attack.
FW Paulo Dybala, 6 -- Not even the jewel in Juve's crown can always be expected to deliver perfection in every match. Inaccurate when given the opportunity.
DF Daniele Rugani, 7 -- Given the opportunity to play in a high pressure match, the youngster played with composure and confidence to deliver good passes forward and manage the basics well.
MF Stefano Sturaro, N/A -- Offers more of a physical presence, his task was simple, ensuring Juve's dominance.
FW Alvaro Morata, N/A -- A player who is excellent at forging ahead with speed, he won the penalty that he converted perfectly and overwhelmed a back-line that struggled to contain.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.