Inter’s reunion with Romelu Lukaku was the theme of the night, but it was the Belgian’s replacement in the Nerazzurri’s starting XI that stole the show. Marcus Thuram’s 81st-minute goal proved the difference in a tight, tense, and at times ill-tempered 1-0 win over Roma. The final scoreline was far closer than it could and perhaps should have been, with Inter holding 63% of possession, winning the expected goals battle 2.35-0.14, and outshooting the visitors 19 (3 on target) to 3 (1). A combination of misfortune, poor finishing, and a rare good game from Rui Patricio meant Roma had a chance, but Thuram was there to crush the Giallorossi’s dreams and give all three points to the good guys.
Inter made 4 changes from its midweek victory over Salzburg, with Simone Inzaghi returning Nicolo Barella and Marcus Thuram to the lineup. Roma lined up in a 3-5-2 as well, with Romelu Lukaku and Stephan El Shaarawy leading the line while a suspended Jose Mourinho sat removed from the sidelines in a suite.
The action began accompanied by resounding boos and whistles from the San Siro and fittingly kicked off by Romelu Lukaku. Inter, however, was almost immediately on the front foot and was inches away from the opener in the 6th minute when Hakan Calhanoglu banged a shot off the crossbar from outside the box. Marcus Thuram came close next on a superb Denzel Dumfries cross, but Rui Patricio made a kick-save on the Frenchman’s close-range attempt in the 15th minute. Inter’s early storm on Roma’s goal continued with a Federico Dimarco effort that curled just wide of the far post moments later, but once again the Giallorossi escaped.
The remainder of the first half proceeded in a similar fashion, albeit minus the type of quality chances we saw in the opening stages. Inter completely dominated with 64% possession, 1.36 expected goals, and 12 shots (but only one on target), while Roma barely ventured out of its own half with a grand total of 0 attempts on goal. The scoreline, however, remained level.
Inter let another chance go begging two minutes into the second half, this time in the form of a Thuram header that flew over the bar from inside the six-yard box. The game then took on a more physical theme, with yellows awarded haphazardly by Maresca left and right. Roma, surprisingly, would have the next quality chance in the 66th minute, but a diving Yan Sommer was on hand to paw Bryan Cristante’s header off the line on Roma’s first shot of the game.
Just as the match seemed to be heading towards a scoreless draw, Inter finally got its goal in the 81st minute (special shoutout to the curse of the commentator, as mere seconds before the ball hit the back of the net Matteo Bonetti was praising Roma for keeping a clean sheet). Kristjan Asllani played a beautiful diagonal switch to Dimarco in space, and the Italian sent a pin-point cross to Thuram, who made no mistake from on the doorstep.
TIC-TAC-TOE! ❌⭕— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 29, 2023
Marcus Thuram finishes off a perfect passing sequence for Inter. pic.twitter.com/y7qBzcLvnz
Roma subbed on two more strikers to join Lukaku after the goal, going to some sort of 3-4-3 that shockingly proved dysfunctional (Roma’s attacking trio totaled 38 touches and 0 shots), while Inter almost made it 2-0 off a Carlos Augusto long-range rocket, but once again the crossbar proved to be Roma’s friend. Nonetheless, all three points were safely in the hands of the Nerazzurri by the time proceedings were brought to an end.
Sommer - 7: Only had one save to make, but boy was it an important one. If Cristante’s header goes in we’re talking about a very different result right now, and not in a good way.
Bastoni - 7: Didn’t have much to do defensively, allowing him more freedom on the ball. Bastoni led Inter in touches (88) and passes (64), notched 2 key passes, 7 accurate long balls, and 7 cross attempts.
Acerbi - 6.5: Didn’t quite reach the heights of Bastoni’s performance, but still did quite well, including a 93% passing rate, 4 accurate long balls, 1 key pass, and 3 clearances.
Pavard - 6: Only lasted one uneventful half before Inzaghi took him out, tallying 3 interceptions and picking up a yellow on a failed bicycle kick.
Dimarco - 7: Had a quiet first half but turned it around in the second, assisting Thuram’s goal with a perfect cross to go along with 3 duels won, 3 key passes, and a 92% passing rate.
Mkhitaryan - 6.5: A busy evening against his ex-club, featuring 5 duels won, 1 key pass, and 3 accurate long balls.
Calhanoglu - 7.5: Another excellent display in the center of the park, tallying the most passes on Inter while he was on the pitch, a 94% passing accuracy, 1 key pass, 2 accurate crosses, and 6 long balls. Would have scored the opener 6 minutes with a little bit of luck as well.
Barella - 6.5: The Italian put in a solid if unspectacular shift, featuring 4 duels won, 5 accurate long balls, and 4 crosses.
Dumfries - 7: Continues to put in the work this season, tallying 5 duels won, 1 clearance, 1 interception, 2 key passes, and 2 successful dribbles. Didn’t get his name on the boxscore like Dimarco, but still a night to be proud of.
Lautaro - 6: Not his most eventful outing, with just one shot on target and three blocked, but did manage 6 duels won and 1 key pass.
Thuram - 8 (Man of the Match): A stellar showing headlined by the game-winner, but that wasn’t all. The Frenchman also managed to win 11 duels (a team high), went 6/6 on dribbles, and tallied 7 total shots and 1 key pass.
Inzaghi - 7.5: Coached a 3-0 win considering the quality of chances Inter created. My only concern is the halftime sub of Pavard which seemed rather unnecessary, but Darmian was quite solid so it worked out in the end.
Inter retake first place from Juventus with 25 points, 2 ahead of the Bianconeri and four of Milan (the Rossonerihave yet to play Napoli as of writing). Next up is a trip to Atalanta on Saturday after a rare and welcome week in between games.