Finally, Roma. The first real moment of joy of the season came against Inter and took the Giallorossi back to where they ought to be, in the top three, a point behind Napoli who wait to face Roma at the San Paolo after the international break. It wasn’t an easy victory but on balance a deserved one, and is the sort of win that can give an injection of enthusiasm even if internationals now break up the league’s rhythm.
It was billed as being a game between the two great ‘imperfect’ sides, and that’s exactly what it was, with a whole host of chances for both teams – particularly in the first half. Games like that are decided by whoever makes the fewest mistakes and in the end that team was Roma, who were rewarded when it seemed like they were moments away from diving back into the incomprehensible negativity that has surrounded the start to this season. There were only 36,000 fans at the Olimpico and for once, those who stayed away missed a real spectacle which was worth watching in person.
The main news pre-match was in Roma’s line-up as Nainggolan was left out – though Spalletti explained that it was precautionary to avoid him picking up an injury – and instead his role in the trequartista position was filled by Florenzi, with Perotti wide on the left. Up front, Dzeko put in one of his best performances since he first joined. Spalletti wisely chose to protect the left hand side by playing ex-Inter player Juan Jesus, and that move also allowed Bruno Peres to play where he is more comfortable, on the right, and the build up for the first goal quickly showed the advantages of playing him there. De Rossi and Strootman were superb in central midfield. On the other side, there were no surprises: Inter put out their strongest team, led by Joao Mario in the middle of the pitch and lit up by the genius of Banega.
It was a fantastic game right from the off, with a true centre-forward’s goal from Dzeko after just five minutes from Bruno Peres’ cross – after which De Rossi pointed to the Bosnian’s name on the back of his shirt and shouted “pieces of shit” towards the Tribuna Tevere – then came Banega’s powerful shot that nearly broke the post and Bruno Peres’ shot that flew wide. Inter were behind for the 8th time in 9 games in all competitions, but they were by no means afraid. De Boer’s team were playing as Spalletti had hoped: the Giallorossi bided their time and, when there was a gap, exploited Salah’s pace which highlighted the Nerazzurri’s defensive limitations.
But the Egyptian was more like Gervinho last night, missing two chances in just a few minutes to extend the lead. After that it was Candreva who tried a scissor kick but without success. It carried on like that until half time: Florenzi missed a clear cut opportunity, some fine play from Dzeko that was only missing the final finish, but there was danger in the Roma defence too. Only a miraculous save by Szczesny and a missed header by Miranda meant that the first half finished 1-0, a scoreline that didn’t reflect the amount of chances created by both sides.
The start of the second half showed a Roma team with more conviction. It was the time when they could have landed the knockout blow, but once more Handanovic made a good save from Perotti. De Boer made three substitutions, one after the other: Nagatomo, Gnoukouri (why?) and Jovetic. Spalletti, meanwhile, only chose to play the El Shaarawy card, and Salah didn’t take the Tuscan coach’s choice well.
An equaliser looked more likely from the activity on the pitch: Gnoukouri got his finish wrong, but Banega didn’t, left in too much space inside the area and who did well to then beat De Rossi who up until then had been perfect. The momentum should have been with Inter after that, but instead it was the opposite. Manolas’ header cannoned off Perisic and Icardi (who was the most quiet of anyone on the pitch), past Handanovic and Roma were in front again.
Paredes came on and then, right at the end, so did Nainggolan, before somehow the Nerazzurri keeper stopped Dzeko from making it 3. Spalletti’s side’s defence resisted Inter and the Olimpico exploded at the final whistle. The Tuscan also won his battle with De Boer: Inter’s changes didn’t make any difference, Roma’s heart was worth more than a numerically inferior squad.
This article is a translation – the original was written by Alessandro Austini for Il Tempo.