The first-half of this match was Roma’s for the taking. For the initial 20 minutes, Inter allowed the capital club more than their fair share of possession and a team containing Sulley Muntari, Thiago Motta and Patrick Vieira failed to press their opponents at all. The first chance of the game came from a Jeremy Menez through ball – Mirko Vucinic latched on, rounded the keeper but was unaware of Lucio close behind. Roma enjoyed plenty of time on the ball, with Daniele De Rossi and David Pizarro not closed down despite regularly being only shooting distance from Julio Cesar’s goal. Unsurprisingly, it was Roma who took the lead, on 12 minutes – Vucinic meeting a Marco Motta long-ball with a looping header from just inside the penalty area. Inter had been casual up to this point and needed the wake-up call.
The Nerazzurri slowly came into the game and on 17 minutes discovered Roma’s weak-spot – the Motta-Andreolli combination on the right side of their defence. A Muntari lofted ball saw Marco Andreolli sloppily play Diego Milito onside for a glorious chance only to be foiled by Julio Sergio. After a promising opening quarter to the game, things began to come undone for Claudio Ranieri. Carelessness crept into the Romans’ play – Pizarro wasteful from a free-kick, Motta and Andreolli undone by long balls over the top.
In the second-half a new Inter entered the field, with Wesley Sneijder and Mario Balotelli unleashed. It was the same nervousness Roma from the end of the first period however. Ricardo Faty provided minimal support for the already stricken Motta and Andreolli, and just two minutes in, the ball kindly dropped to Stankovic on the area, who, with the simplest of passes, found an unmarked Eto’o eight yards from the goal. It was again on Roma’s right side of defence and the Cameroonian was given time to turn and finish past Sergio. The game was then about when, rather than if, Inter would take the lead, but for all their pressing and renewed energy, Mourinho’s men failed to find a way through. Even though they were afforded countless opportunities down Roma’s unguarded right side, Inter’s best XI couldn’t break through and test Sergio.
Jose Mourinho: “I like the point, as Roma had the quality to come here and win. I had the feeling it wouldn’t be great for us so I put fresh legs in midfield, but even then in the first-half the performance was poor. If someone goes home tonight happy with what they achieved, it’s because they have no ambition.”
Claudio Ranieri: “I am very happy with the team spirit and the hunger to do well, plus the standard of the football. Obviously one always wants more. We tried to go on the counter and conclude them, but every single time we were systematically hacked down.”
Some juicy post-match comments threaten to derail the focus from the game in hand. Mourinho looking every which way but at himself for what went wrong, Ranieri getting caught up in the ex-Chelsea-boss skirmish.
The changes made by Mourinho at half-time and the lack of changes made by Ranieri highlight the gulf in resources and depth at these respective clubs. Mourinho had a luxury of options on his bench to choose from, coupled with a harsh team-talk, whilst the Tinkerman could do everything but tinker with his struggling side. Inter will wonder how their second-half performance didn’t force through the victory, but they ultimately paid the price for a dismal, laid-back first 45. It was 20 minutes before Messrs Muntari, Vieira and Thiago Motta started to press the Roma midfield, and by then, the damage had been done. Marco Motta was allowed all the time in the world to advance 20 yards before picking out a flighted cross-field ball to Vucinic, whose accuracy and power on his header caught out the usually alert Cesar in goal.
Roma’s performance yet again hinged on one of their key men and his enforced substitution – De Rossi’s removal from the field on 36 minutes affected the site tactically more than mentally a it exposed the already weak-spot of the right side. Motta and Andreolli in defence were desperately lacking a cool head between them and Faty’s introduction on the right wing shifted the better defensive midfielder Brighi into the centre, unleashing Nerazzurri hell on to the young Italians at the back. There were periods of play in the second-half where Eto’o, Sneijder and Balotelli swarmed the left side of the pitch, leaving Milito on Mexes and Maicon to cover the entire right side of midfield – Mourinho’s men didn’t need a formation, just enough men around this trouble-spot to unlock the door. However, Inter’s wastefulness and arrogance in the first-half, saw to it that Roma left with a point and their pride still intact, as Inter’s best failed to wakeup and bring the fury quite as Mourinho had expected.
Mourinho will no doubt be ruing his selection of a highly uninspired midfield unable to find a pass between them worthy of an assist. The time is already ticking on Thiago Motta’s Inter career. His neat footwork and physical presence should offer Inter the perfect all-rounder in the middle of the park, yet his constant shifting around the pitch by Mourinho only highlights the Brazilian’s failure to impact on games. Whether it is motivation or ability, Thiago Motta needs to bring more to the Nerazzurri than he did Genoa, else he can add Inter to the list of big-name clubs for him to have failed at.
The Inter Coach was also quick to lambaste his Italian youngster Balotelli, claiming he is fast running out of ideas to get the best out of the No 45. Indeed, some may remark as to Balotelli’s continued presence in the first team when Davide Santon fails to now even make the bench, but whilst the youngsters both lack the maturity desired in top-flight Italian football, it is Balotelli’s temperament that betrays his age, not what he brings to the pitch. The future of the Italian game didn’t have its best 90 minutes in this game – Balotelli, Andreolli and Motta all more than willing to show Marcello Lippi he is right for sticking with the old guard.
Ultimately, Roma will be delighted with this point, and can take heart from Inter’s aggressive second-half attitude brought out by the threat Vucinic and Menez offered on the counter. Sort out the defence and i Lupi can look onwards and upwards. Inter played badly, played half their reserve players, and still should have won a game against a side previously their closest title rivals. This Inter is still too strong for Serie A.
Inter 1-1 Roma – Eto’o 48 – Vucinic 12
Inter (4-3-1-2)- Julio Cesar – Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Zanetti – Muntari (Sneijder 45), Vieira (Balotelli 45), Thiago Motta (Cambiasso 64) – Stankovic – Eto’o, Milito
Roma (4-4-1-1): Julio Sergio – Motta, Andreolli, Mexes, Riise – Brighi, De Rossi (Faty 36), Pizarro, Perrotta – Menez (Tonetto 75), Vucinic (Okaka 68)
Inter – Roma
5 – Corners – 6
12 (4) – Shots (on target) – 12 (4)
26 – Fouls – 12
3 (0) – Yellow cards (Red) – 3 (0)
5 – Offside – 0