The second match of Inter Milan’s Serie A victors’ tour brought Roma to the San Siro on Wednesday evening. The first match post clinching the Scudetto saw some rotation from Antonio Conte in the champions’ 5-1 demolition of Sampdoria. This match was no different, handing Ionut Radu the first start in Inter colors with Andrea Ranocchia assuming the captain’s armband. Outgoing Roma boss Paulo Fonseca also made a hatful of changes with not much else for his team to play for this season, starting a few youngsters and former Inter defender Davide Santon. With the pressure off, Inter have found their scoring boots again, something that was again on display with two first half goals. The debut of the controversial fourth shirt also found its way onto the pitch for Inter. The only thing flashier than the new strip may be Inter’s scintillating home form, which was pushed to a record 15th consecutive home win on the season. After a stressful second half, the match was put to bed by a late Romelu Lukaku goal, allowing Inter to relish their victory lap just a bit more in the race for 94 points, a mark that would be second highest in club history.
Rotations are nearly a given for teams without much to play for in the final matches of the season. Conte gave starts to Radu, Danilo D’Ambrosio, Ranocchia, Matias Vecino, and Alexis Sanchez. Milan Skriniar moved from his usual right center back position to the left. For Roma, Fonseca started third choice keeper Daniel Fuzato, youngster Ebrima Darboe, and the often out of favor Edin Dzeko. While neither team had much at stake, the changes were enough to draw in fans to see some of the players they don’t usually get to see.
INTER (3-5-2): Radu; D’Ambrosio, Ranocchia, Skriniar; Darmian, Vecino, Brozovic, Barella, Perisic; Lukaku, Sanchez.
ROMA (4-2-3-1): Fuzato; Karsdorp, Mancini, Kumbulla, Santon; Cristante, Darboe; Pedro, Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko.
Inter began the match playing some of the attacking football that Conte experimented with early in the season. Balls forward, long switches of play, and runners off of Lukaku and Alexis featured early, but a couple of reckless early fouls on Alexis by Darboe eventually forced the Chilean off later in the half with an ankle issue. The scoring began early though, with Matteo Darmian cutting back a cross to the edge of the box for Marcelo Brozovic to lash home on 11 minutes. The second goal come just nine minutes later from another midfielder. A great ball over the top from deep found Lukaku in behind. The Belgian was held up in the box, but found Vecino making a run, who took his shot well and put Inter up 2-0 in what looked like the beginning of a rout.
The chances of a rout were quickly dashed, as Henrik Mkhitaryan pulled one back 11 minutes later. The goal came after a controversial decision by referee Daniele Chiffi not to issue a red card to Santon in the Roma defense after he pulled down Alexis, who looked to be in on goal after a slip from the former Inter man put him in on goal. A clever flick from Alexis put Vecino in on goal again late in the half, but he could not finish the chance. The half ended with plenty of entertainment at 2-1.
The second half featured a lot of pressure from Roma, who perhaps sensed some blood in the water after their opener to half the deficit in the first half. The visitors controlled the majority of possession in the half. Dzeko turned Ranocchia and rocked the post on 56 minutes with a thumping effort that bounded back into play. The visitors kept coming after that, as Bryan Cristante had an open header from nearly point blank range, but could not steer it towards Radu’s goal.
Substitutions came shortly after, with Andrea Pinamonti notably taking the spot of Lautaro Martinez on 77 minutes. Lautaro had been brought on for the injured Alexis in the first half. The Argentine was not happy, and the disagreement between him and his manager was clear to see on the sidelines. Pinamonti almost put the game out of reach after coming on, after intercepting a stray Darbo pass, he tried to chip Fuzato in goal but missed. However, another reckless challenge from Darbo caught the striker and could very well have been a penalty and second yellow for the inexperienced midfielder. A video review decided not to give the foul, and the match continued.
Roma continued to besiege the Inter goal almost into stoppage time, but the countering speed of Achraf Hakimi and Lukaku finally relieved the pressure as the two made their way behind the Roma defense with devastating speed. Lukaku played Hakimi through at the beginning of the move and scored the deciding goal when the Moroccan played the ball back to him at the other end of the pitch just seconds later for goal number 22 of the season. With that, a surprisingly cagey match was put to bed.
Radu - 5.5: Not the best first start, but not the worst. He maybe could have done more on the goal, but other than that, his distribution from the back and his other saves were decent. He’s probably never a starter at Inter, but a decent keeper.
Skriniar - 6.5: For a player that was on the brink of being sold because of his perceived inability to play on the left side of a back three last season, Skriniar had a great match. He made most of the needed tackles at the back and carried two players who do not usually start. Respect to him for going back to a position he probably did not want to see again.
Ranocchia - 6: Quiet but decent game from the nominal captain. Got spun on the Dzeko chance, but other than that stuck to his man well when needed. It is a shame he played in a back four for most of his time at the club, because the center of a back three suits him much better, especially with a more aggressive defender like Skriniar there for support.
D’Ambrosio - 6: Also a quiet but solid game for him in what could be the twilight of his Inter career. He often hugged the touchline in possession but did not always own the right side of the back three as well as Skriniar does. No real complaints in his performance, nonetheless.
Perisic - 5.5: Much of Roma’s attack went down the opposite flank, meaning he did not have much to do in defense. However, he looked way off the pace in attack. He often went backwards or lost the ball when it came to him. Not his best match by far.
Barella - 6.5: Quiet in the first half, but back to his fighting self in the second. His intensity is always important in all phases of play for Inter, even if his contributions do not always show up on the scoresheet. His passing from deep also gets overlooked sometimes, but on the Vecino goal, he reminded everyone that he can really do it all.
Brozovic - 7: Always good to see Brozo get on the scoresheet. His goal was excellently taken and he was able to finally debut a new celebration in honor of his rather interesting bomb neck tattoo that he has no doubt had planned for a while now. Good performance, especially on the offensive side of play.
Vecino - 6.5: Anyone who has watched Inter since 2017 knows that Vecino is at his best when he is making runs into the box and taking shots. He was doing so in this match. He got is goal and easily could have had one or two more. His finishing let him down, but he is looking good in his return from injury.
Darmian - 7: Surely no one expected him to have eight goal contributions for Inter this season across all competitions, but here we are. His cutback for Brozovic was class and his overall performance can’t be faulted. Also helped sure up the left when Hakimi came on. What an invaluable player he has been this season.
Alexis - 6: Really looked like he was going to have a good match before the injury derailed it. Reckless challenges from Darboe. Hopefully he’s alright at least for Chile’s World Cup qualifiers.
Lukaku - 7 (MOTM): A goal and an assist will always put a player in contention for being the man of the match. Great to see him get a goal for the first time since early April. It is such a treat to have a striker that can rack up the assists as much as the goals. Sometimes we take him for granted, but he is still the heart of this team.
Lautaro- 4.5: It is never good to see a substitute then get substituted, but Lautaro’s performance did not help his case. Never really factored into the attack and could not find his footing in the match. He might have lost focus in the wake of winning the league, but this should bring him back to Earth.
Hakimi - 6.5: Inter needed some speed to get the pressure off of the team when defending. Countering is his specialty, and he showed it. Great run for the Lukaku goal, also could have had one of his own.
Sensi - 5.5: Not his best performance after returning from all those injuries. Looked a bit lost on the ball at times, but that can sometimes happen as a substitute. Hoping for more from him soon.
Young, Pinamonti - N/A
Conte - 6: Much of the focus now for the manager has been getting performances from players who are either playing for a shot at the club next year or advertising possible outgoing sales. He has done this while also experimenting in the attacking style that will be needed in the Champions League next season. Let’s also hope his row with Lautaro was just in the heat of the moment.
The next match for Inter should be interesting. A trip to Turin to face a Juventus side who are currently fighting tooth and nail to get back into the top four. With all of the underlying storylines surrounding the match, it will be interesting to see if Inter decide to play spoiler on Saturday against their most fierce rival in the league. What a story that could be.