Italian giants Inter Milan welcomed fellow high-flyers Roma to the San Siro for a high profile clash in the Serie A. The Nerazzurri occupied the fourth spot in the table heading into this game, entitling them to the final Champions League spot, and they wanted to keep it that way with a positive result. The Giallorossi meanwhile sat one place behind their opponents in fifth, but a win would have seen them leapfrog Inter. With a lot at stake for both sides, this promised to be an entertaining affair.
Inter look more threatening in the opening exchanges
With both sides keen to avoid losing further ground on the sides above them, the game started with an unsurprisingly quick tempo, and it was Inter who settled into the lion’s share of possession early on. Both Antonio Candreva and Ivan Perisic had some early success down the flanks, and a number of early crosses threatened to find the ever-present Mauro Icardi in the Roma box. Roma meanwhile looked most dangerous on the break, with Radja Nainggolan winning the ball high up the pitch on a number of occasions. The Belgian’s ability to break up the play allowed him to start attacks frequently, and Edin Dzeko was the target whenever the visitors were in possession.
As Roma grew into the game it became a much more tense affair, with both sides looking slightly tentative in possession, especially in the final third. The first chance of the game fell to Candreva, who tried his luck from 35-yards out, but the winger’s strike flew high and wide past the post. The half-chance seemed to buoy the home side however and they began to pile on the pressure. Joao Cancelo looked dangerous down the right flank, and one of the fullback’s high crosses found Perisic at the back post, but the Croatian’s resulting header was off target by a matter of inches.
El Shaarawy grabs an unlikely opener
Inter continued their dominance past the 20-minute mark, with Candreva’s pace and Icardi’s strength causing problems for the Roma defenders. The striker went to ground in the box after being sandwiched between Koastas Manolas and Federico Fazio, but the referee waved away the penalty appeal, much to the distaste of the San Siro crowd. The home side had a brilliant double chance to open the scoring on the half hour mark, first from Perisic and then from Borja Valero. The ball fell to the winger after an over hit cross, and he turned brilliantly past the fullback, but saw his shot well blocked by Manolas. The follow-up was from Valero, but his shot too was blocked just in the nick of time, and Alisson managed to gather the ball and relieve the pressure.
Incredibly it was Roma who opened the scoring, very much against the run of play, and it came courtesy of Stephan El Shaarawy. It was the goalkeeper Alisson who claimed the assist, with his punted clearance prompting a poor mistake from the Inter left back Davide Santon. The defender’s misjudged defensive effort allowed El Shaarawy to slip in behind the back line, and he dinked a beautiful finish over Handanovic to hand his side the lead. Having grabbed an unlikely goal the visitors turned more defensive in the run up to half time, and Inter found it difficult to penetrate the Giallorossi back line. Roma managed to hold onto their lead as the half time whistle went, and Eusebio Di Francesco would have been very happy with his side’s performance.
Roma turn the game into a tense affair
With a lead to defend, Roma came out for the second half endeavouring to maintain as much possession as possible and to smother Inter whenever they found themselves on the ball. Nainggolan became crucial to the visitors’ plans, controlling the midfield play with his array of passing and breaking up play when his side squandered possession. The Belgian’s experience allowed him to dominate the central areas, and the home side struggled to find any real passing rhythm.
What the Nerazzurri did manage to do was hold some consistent possession, but that allowed Roma to play on the break, using the pace of El Shaarawy to cause problems for the Inter defenders. An interesting battle followed between the winger and Davide Santon, with the Inter fullback having the upper hand around the hour mark. The home side really struggled to put together any coherent attacks, despite needing to find an equaliser, and they were reduced to a number of half chances by the Roma defence.
Vecino snatches a late equaliser
With his side struggling to get a foothold in the game, it was perhaps unsurprising that Luciano Spalletti made a tactical change. Second striker Eder was introduced, replacing Candreva, and he looked to link more effectively with Icardi through the middle. The substitute almost made an immediate impact with a low driven shot, but Alisson got down well to make the save at his near post. The Brazilian shot stopper had to make another smart save to deny Icardi a few moments later, turning the striker’s shot onto the post to preserve his side’s lead. The two chances in quick succession lifted the crowd, and the San Siro got fully behind their team with 15 minutes to go.
The support from the crowd almost aided Inter in their quest for an equaliser, but Eder somehow guided a close range header past the post after a great cross from Cancelo. The Nerazzurri pushed desperately for a goal in the final ten minutes, and it was Alisson who was the man keeping Roma in the game, making another sensational diving save from an Icardi strike.
The home side were finally rewarded for their sustained pressure with a few minutes to go, and it was Matias Vecino who grabbed the equaliser. A great early cross from Marcelo Brozovic found the midfielder in a gap between the centre halves, and his header gave Alisson no chance. The late goal was to be the final action of what had been an intriguing clash, and it ended honours even at the San Siro, which was perhaps the correct result on the balance of play.
Considering the fact that they went 0-1 down, Inter did well to come back and earn a hard-fought point from this crucial game. The draw allowed them to maintain their fourth spot, as well as their three point lead over Roma, though the visitors do still have a game in hand. It was a frustrating evening for the Nerazzurri however, and Icardi looked incredibly isolated at times, while Perisic and Candreva never quite looked convincing.
In truth this was a good point for Roma, who probably would have taken a draw before the game. Their goal came very much against the run of play, and while they could have grabbed a second, Di Francesco opted instead to defend the lead. That decision didn’t pay off, but now their focus will turn to keeping Edin Dzeko at the club amidst rumours of a potential move to Chelsea.
Inter Milan: Handanovic; Cancelo, Miranda, Skriniar, Santon (Dalbert, 77’); Vecino, Gagliardini (Brozovic, 45’), Valero; Candreva (Eder, 71’), Perisic, Icardi
Roma: Alisson; Kolarov, Fazio, Manolas, Florenzi; Nainggolan, Strootman, Pellegrini; El Shaarawy (Jesus, 75’), Dzeko (Schick, 84’), Gerson (Peres, 70’)
Goals: El Shaarawy (0-1, 31’), Vecino (1-1, 86’)
Yellow Cards: Perisic (58’), Cancelo (68’)
Red Cards: None
Inter Milan: Handanovic 6; Cancelo 7, Miranda 6.5, Skriniar 6.5, Santon 6 (Dalbert n/a); Vecino 7.5, Gagliardini 6 (Brozovic 7), Valero 6; Candreva 6.5 (Eder n/a), Perisic 7, Icardi 6.5
Roma: Alisson 7.5; Kolarov 6.5, Fazio 6.5, Manolas 6.5, Florenzi 6.5; Nainggolan 6.5, Strootman 6, Pellegrini 6; El Shaarawy 7.5 (Jesus n/a), Dzeko 7 (Schick n/a), Gerson 6 (Peres n/a)
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