If that wasn’t one of the strangest Roma matches we’ve seen in years, I don’t know what was. Something about this fixture simultaneously brings out the best and worst in these two clubs. In the first half alone, Roma and Inter could have easily tallied eight or nine goals, but as it stood Edin Dzeko, the most maligned shooter in the league, was the most accurate man on earth, as his fifth minute goal gave the Giallorossi an early lead.
Speaking of which...
Edin Dzeko: 5th Minute
This goal was just sublime from start to finish. After Bruno Peres—rejuvenated now that he can actually play his natural position—burst past his defender and played in the perfect low cross, Dzeko got his foot in at just the right time and at just the right angle to guide it home. It was precisely the sort of goal Dzeko has flubbed during his time in Rome, so it was certainly a welcomed sight.
Throughout the first 45 minutes, Roma and Inter traded barbs, with Dzeko and Mohamed Salah having their way with Inter’s subprime defense and, were it not for Salah’s suddenly off shot, Spalletti’s men could have easily headed into the dressing room with a two or three-nil lead, while Antonio Candreva, Ever Banega and Ivan Perisic each came up wanting in the first half for the Nerazzurri.
However, as well all know, nothing is more perilous than a one goal lead, particularly not when Roma is continually tempting fate by missing relative sitters. So, with the second half on deck, what would Spalletti do: park the bus or push for another goal?
With no immediate changes and none for the first 25 minutes of the first half, it appeared as though Spalletti was happy with his side’s form and function in the first half, and given how many chances they created in the first half, it’s hard to argue with him. However, as we discussed in the preview, lovely buildup and attempts on goal, even though they are positive signs, don’t mean a thing at the end of the day. You need goals to win games.
With Salah running out of steam, Spalletti opted for Stephan El Shaarawy in the 69th minute, but it would be a defender that would put Roma ahead once and for all.
Kostas Manolas: 76th Minute
Hard to say whether that was an own goal or not, but hats off to Roma for a well executed set piece. Florenzi delivered it with just the right pace and at just the right height for Manolas to lash his forehead onto the ball and beat Handanovic minutes after Ever Banega levelled the match at one a piece.
While Roma would nearly make it 3-1 off a Dzeko header—Samir Handanovic absolutely robbed him of a goal with finger tip save—they did just enough to forestall Inter’s second half advances, with Federico Fazio springing into action to beat Mauro Icardi to a ball in the six that would have easily knotted this match at two.
This wasn’t a decisive victory by any means—Inter DOMINATED possession—but Roma’s attack was lively in the first half, peppering Inter’s goal through the middle to Dzeko and out wide with Salah. And while this reliance can sometimes be problematic, the two were up to snuff today, with Dzeko turning in perhaps his finest performance in a Roma shirt.
Beyond Dzeko and Salah’s stellar turns, Manolas was absolutely astounding tonight. Besides effectively removing Icardi from the match and scoring the match winner himself, Manolas was all over the pitch, picking off five passes and clearing nine balls from danger.
Alessandro Florenzi, moved back to a more attacking position, was a man reborn, pulling off four shots on goal and creating two scoring chances. Playing just behind Dzeko and alongside Perotti and Salah, Florenzi’s agility and off the ball movement were the perfect compliments to Salah’s speed, Perotti’s playmaking and Strootman’s passing.
Really, the only negatives you can take from this match was that it once again proved how badly this club needs a midfielder to maintain possession and dictate the pace of play. While that will presumably be Paredes one day, in the here and now, Roma’s inability to maintain possession in midfield is severely taxing the legs of Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan and company, so it was nice to see Nainggolan get a breather today.
But all in all, this was a fine performance. Despite the misses in the first half, Dzeko and Salah were dangerous, Manolas was magnificent and even Wojciech Szczesny made some brilliant saves.
Although they’re technically in third place, this puts Roma on even keel with Lazio, AC Milan, and Chievo at 13 points. Their quest to place some distance between themselves and the rest of the 13 point club won’t be easy, however, as the Derby del Sole lies ahead on the 15th.