A confident Inter had visited the capital expecting to beat a Roma team very much short of confidence. But despite dominating, the Nerazzuri were wasteful in front of goal and paid the ultimate price when Mirko Vucinic’s last-gasp diving header gave the hosts a much-needed win and put pay to any hope of the Milanese breaking away in the league table.
Inter started the game on Saturday night with Walter Samuel and Javier Zanetti both missing. Ian Cordoba came in at centre-half and Christian Chivu continued at left-back but otherwise the team was unchanged from the one which had demolished Bari. Rafael Benitez was hoping he could take advantage of Roma’s poor form so far this season and deal them a further blow, in turn helping his team create a gap at the top of the table.
The Giallorossi were put onto the back foot immediately as Dejan Stankovic hit two powerful strikes early on, which were eluded by the torso of Juan and the palms of Bogdan Lobont. Roma slowly started to come to life and when Simone Perrotta slid the ball into the chest of Julio Cesar, the ball looped up before dropping onto the head of Marco Borriello. Lucio’s attempted clearance saw him kick Borriello in the back of the head but the referee did not see it as an infringement.
At the other end Samuel Eto’o started to looked hungry for a goal and was unlucky when his close-range shot was blocked before it had chance to test Lobont. Inter continued to press and the ever- dangerous Stankovic fizzed a 30-yard screamer along the floor, gathered by the Roma ‘keeper at the second time of asking. The Serbian must have been convinced his luck was out as he continued to strike from distance with no reward. On 38 minutes he released a thunderbolt and was desperately unfortunate to see it only crash against the crossbar.
The second half looked like producing more of the same when Eto’o had an early effort saved, but Roma then missed a glorious chance at the other end when Julio Cesar was penalised for picking up a back-pass on his six-yard line. Francesco Totti took the resulting free-kick but blasted it over the bar. Eto’o then had two further chances to put Inter ahead but shot wastefully over before being denied once more by Lobont.
It looked like the visitors would have to settle for a point but in injury time they were made to leave empty-handed when John Arne Riise delivered a cross into the six-yard box and Vucinic drifted in behind a static defence to win it with a flying header of the highest quality.
The result was a shock for the Nerazzurri although it is unlikely to shake them too much. There were plenty of positives from the performance but the team should be aware they have to improve in certain areas.
“At the end of the game we lost intensity and allowed John Arne Riise to cross. But before then we’d had around 15 shots on goal and many chances,” Benitez commented afterwards.
“The difference is made when it goes in the net. It isn’t easy when you play so many games with such intensity. We had four or five counter-attacks where we could’ve scored and that’s what made the difference.”
This certainly does not set alarm bells ringing and it is obvious Inter’s coach remains quietly upbeat.
“Nothing has changed for Inter. We just need to analyse why we didn’t score and why we are sometimes weak in defence. That’s what we have to work on,” he concluded.
Defender Douglas Maicon echoed Benitez’s words but appeared annoyed by the lack of cover in front of him and his fellow defenders.
“There was too much egotism in attack,” he commented.
One big concern is Diego Milito’s injury, which will see him miss the Champions League clash with Werder Bremen on Wednesday. El Principe limped off with a thigh strain against Roma and it’s not certain how long he will be out.
All in all the Nerazzurri will be kicking themselves for not taking advantage of a wounded Giallorossi. However, the performance was better than the scoreline suggested and if they can repeat it against the Germans, they have every chance of a win and will go into next weekend’s Derby d’Italia full of confidence.