De Rossi 17, Toni 73
Their grit, their hatred for the Milanese giants and their determination to not be ignored in the race for the coveted league title saw Roma play the first half of their lives – making the most of several lucky breaks to open up the race for the Scudetto.
It was ironic how a team managed by Jose Mourinho – known for his PR savvy mind and his ability to play mind games – appeared to suffer from the words uttered by the gentlemanly Tinkerman: “They risk more. They have to win the Scudetto.” Claudio Ranieri’s statement prior to the most anticipated game in the Roman calendar seemed to have struck a chord with the Nerazzurri. They indeed had to win the game and the onus was on them to succeed. When they realised they were facing a very determined and hungry Roma side, their senses were heightened, the pressure was piled on and the worry set in – there was a chance they could lose this. But with every slick move the Giallorossi made, Inter reciprocated with a dirty move to earn them a shocking, yet fully deserved, seven yellow cards. Cristian Chivu’s scandalous reaction should have seen the Nerazzurri reduced to ten as serenity was thrown out the window in this tense match that may well have decided the title winner.
With the Olimpico heaving, the anticipation was growing as to what tactic the Tinkerman would opt for at the start of the match. Would he play a restricted game, lull the opposition into a false sense of security and then attack to overwhelm them at the end, or would he go for gold from the get-go. It seems he went for the latter and provided the home crowd the luxury of watching one of the most thrilling matches in Serie A to date with a tempo that even English teams would have envied. The match had it all: tussles, devoted loyalty to the Roma colours, penalty claims, clear dives, and a Luca Toni goal celebration.
Ultimately, Inter should have garnered a little more out of this match. They hit the woodwork three times, had a serious claim for a penalty at the end of the first half and – taking the bull by the horns at the start of the second half – forced Roma into a prolonged period of last-gasp defending. But lady luck certainly smiled upon the league leaders when the referee failed to spot a blatant offside in the build-up to Diego Milito’s equaliser. While Roma fans blamed the FIGC for the refereeing error, it had to be handed to Inter – they deserved a goal even if it had to come in that manner.
Whether it was Júlio César’s poor performance in-between the sticks or the Gods conspiring against them, Inter was defeated yet again to put their ability to cope with the pressure of competing in all three major competitions into serious doubt.