It wasn’t easy, but in the end Inter was able to snatch a draw against a determined AS Roma side. Thanks to a 88th minute Romelu Lukaku penalty, the Nerazzurri will be in the UEFA Champions League for the third straight campaign this coming Fall. But in the here and now, Juventus has practically won this season’s Scudetto after Inter dropped even more points. There’ll be time to mull over that later, though, so let’s go ahead and take a look at the starting line-ups.
Roberto Gagliardini and Samir Handanović have been the sole Inter players to start every single, you may be surprised to learn. It’s definitely not a ringing endorsement of Inter that Gagliardini has turned out into such an important player in recent weeks.
Roma almost took an early lead in the 9th minute after yet another Handanović error. This time, the Slovenian rushed off the line to deal with a corner, but the ball eluded him and continued its journey across the goal. It reached the head of Gianluca Mancini, but the 24-year-old failed to react in time and could only direct his header wide of the open net.
Corners would continue to play a starring role in the match, but this time at the other end. On the quarter hour mark, an outswinging Alexis Sánchez delivery found Stefan de Vrij at the back post. Under little pressure, the Dutchmen nodded the ball off the ground and squarely into the back of the net. That was the 500th goal scored in this fixture, the most out of any matchup across the league.
Inter held on to its one goal lead until the very end of the half, but couldn’t take it all the way. In the 45+1st minute, Roma split open Inter’s backline with a sequence of short passss and found Leonardo Spinazzola wide open in the left side of the box. Spinazzola sent a low shot buzzing across the goal, but before it could reach the target, de Vrij blasted the ball into the roof of his own net, the conclusion of a miserable attempt to block the shot. However, there was a possible foul on Lautaro Martínez in the lead up to the goal, and VAR advised the referee to have a look. There was definitely contact on the Argentine, but he fell a bit too easily for the ref’s liking.
Not much separated either side, and no one could complain about the level scoreline, even if it did come in slightly controversial circumstances.
Lautaro thought he had regained the lead for Inter in the 54th minute on a counterattack, but he was ruled offside on the through ball. That transgression would prove costly, as Henrikh Mkhitaryan completed the Giallorossi’s turnaround in the 57th minute. The Armenian bursted through Inter’s defense and played a scrappy one-two with Edin Džeko, that resulted in a bouncing ball at the top of the six-yard- box. Mkhitaryan made no mistake and sent a thunderous volley past a helpless Handanović.
Roma had the majority of chances, but fortunately never found a clear cut look at a third. Instead, Inter held on defensively, and then pushed for an equalizer in the last ten minutes of the match. The Nerazzurri got its reward, too, but in a peculiar manner.
Roma full back Leonardo Spinazzola dawdled on the ball in his box, and by the time he went to clear, Victor Moses was bearing down on him. He still attempted a clearance, though, but instead whiffed on the ball and bamboozled Moses’s upper leg with the follow through. It was one of the oddest penalties I’ve ever seen, yet a penalty nonetheless. Lukaku confidently stepped up and sent Pau López the wrong way. No more Lautaro penalties, please.
A draw is perhaps a bit more than Inter deserved from this match. Roma was by and far the better team in the second half, but never found a way through Inter after Mkhitaryan’s goal. Statistically, though, this was a very even match. Roma outshot Inter 9-7, but both sides put 3 shots on target. The heat maps, too, are very similar.
Neither side was able to impose itself on the other. For Inter, though, Eriksen’s absence was felt. The blue hole at near midfield is where Eriksen usually operates, but his replacement, Marcelo Brozović, was a bit out of sorts and position.
The point against 5th placed Roma clinches UEFA Champions League action next season for both Inter and Atalanta. The league, however, is just about done and dusted. Juventus has a 5 point lead prior to its clash against Lazio, and then can look forward to one of the easiest group of games to close out the season. With nothing left to play for this season, Conte’s side can prepare for a tough test against Getafe in the Europa League Round of 16.
But first, Fiorentina at the San Siro on Wednesday!