As Inter looked towards their latest match in the 26th round of fixtures, it was in a slightly different situation than their opponent, Roma. Whereas the Nerazzurri had suffered from bouts of inconsistency throughout the season of transition and were in fifth place in league standings, their Roman opponents had gotten off to a great start under new manager, Rudi Garcia, with a consistent season that saw them in second place. Two different paths for two top sides and the question to be answered was which side would be victorious? Could Inter put together a consistent performance and keep the string of positive results to an unbeaten four or would their opponents channel the same performance from the first matchup this season as they continued their quest for first?
Official Lineups from the Inter site:
Inter XI (3-5-2): Handanovic, Rolando, Samuel, Juan Jesus, Jonathan (Zanetti 88), Guarin, Alvarez (Hernanes 65), Cambiasso, Nagatomo, Palacio, Icardi (Botta 88).
Unused Substitutes: Carrizo, Andreolli, Kovacic, Campagnaro, Kuzmanovic, Taider, Milito, Ranocchia, D'Ambrosio.
Coach: Walter Mazzarri.
Roma XI (4-3-3): De Sanctis, Castan, Strootman, Ljajic (Pjanic 55), De Rossi, Benatia, Destro (Bastos 81), Gervinho (Florenzi 89), Torosidis, Nainggolan, Romagnoli.
Unused Substitutes: Lobont, Skorupski, Toloi, Taddei, Ricci, Mazzitelli, Di Mariano.
Coach: Rudi Garcia.
Officials: Bergonzi, Ghiandai, Manganelli, Musolino, De Marco, Pinzani
Inter lined up in a 3-5-2 formation with Handanovic in goal; a three man backline of Rolando, Samuel, and Juan Jesus; a five man midfield of Jonathan, Guarin, Cambiasso, Alvarez, and Nagatomo; and a strike force of Palacio slightly behind fellow Argentine, Icardi up top.
Inter would look towards young Argentine striker, Icardi as he would get his first start of the season. His lingering struggles with fitness seemed to be behind him and the Nerazzurri would be looking to capitalize on his youthful exuberance to score on the home side.
Prior to the match there was a lot of talk about penalties or the lack of any penalties awarded to Inter this season in league play thus far. It seemed that this trend would continue as Icardi was held back by Benatia in the 15th minute of play but no penalty was called. The Nerazzurri had yet to receive a penalty awarded this season.
There was plenty of back and forth with Inter surprisingly showing a high level of intensity and midfield possession throughout the first half. The Nerazzurri had a few chances towards goal as Alvarez found Palacio in the 20th minute but the ball was headed slightly high of goal. Guarin also had his chance at goal in the 27th minute but to no avail. The Inter attack continued with Jonathan's cross connecting with Nagatomo but the Japanese international volleyed it high. The black and blue were creating offensive chances but the final touch seemed to be elusive.
While Inter matched up well with Roma as the Nerazzurri had their chances at goal, the home side's counter attack almost made the visitors pay in the 32nd minute but Destro's goal was nullified due to the offside flag.
The intensity level remained high for Inter and the midfield possession seemed to be in favor of the Nerazzurri side. Players like Guarin were getting back on defense which helped to win midfield possession. Cambiasso's return from injury seemed to bolster the defense as he anchored the midfield.
At the end of a contentious first half between the two sides the game remained scoreless.
The second half began like the first had ended with Inter pressing in attack demonstrating an aggressively high level of intensity that had been missing from recent performances.
The home side had chances in their counter attack but fortunately the visitors neutralized their chances to keep the scoreline level at 0-0.
While the visitors came into the second half with aggression and intensity as the half wore on, Inter began to play deeper into their own half and the home side began to control the ball more.
Alvarez exited in the 19th minute of the second half to make way for Hernanes. The Brazilian international was quite familiar with playing in the Olimpico against the Roman side as he formerly played for Lazio. A recent injury had seen him miss last week's match and many waited to see if he had recovered enough to influence the outcome of today's match.
There was more back and forth with Roma favoring possession and in the 27th minute of play, Gervinho forced a save from Inter keeper, Handanovic.
The second Inter substitute was in the 29th minute of the second half as Icardi was off and Botta came on to replace him.
The Roma attack was pressing more and Handanovic was forced to save another ball this time from Pjanic in the 30th minute.
Mazzarri made his last substitution as Inter talisman, Zanetti came on for Jonathan in the 42nd minute.
As the game drew to a close, both sides seemed a little tired and the intensity levels from earlier in the match had long disappeared. It was a hard fought performance and Inter deservedly drew one point for their efforts. The referee for the most part let both sides play and did not call any of the possible penalties for either side.
While Inter walked away with what seemed to be only a draw, the performance was one that the Nerazzurri can build upon. The intensity level was fairly high throughout the entirety of the match, players were helping out in defense, midfield possession seemed to favor the black and blue visitors even though the statistics showed an even 50% for both sides, and the defense was able to keep it to a shutout.
If Inter can continue this type of physical performance and keeping the intensity level consistent throughout the match, European competition should be looming in the Nerazzurri's future.
[If you were wondering about "that" De Rossi punch to Icardi's face, well then, enjoy this youtube clip and decide on your own if this was a penalty.]
De Rossi's punch against Icardi. http://t.co/Iv140dTE5u— Inter Stats & Facts (@Inter_Data) March 1, 2014
Roma 0-0 Inter
First half: N/A
Second half: N/A