In a measure of how much things have changed for Roma, the match started off with the English-language commentators lamenting how an injury to Emerson Palmieri would buoy Inter’s spirits ahead of this match; that’s how indispensable this once disposal part has become for Roma, and is testament to how far he has come under Spalletti’s tutelage and just how wonderfully strange this season has been.
Of course, with the Karate Kid sidelined, someone had to step up. What initially looked like a 4-2-3-1 with Juan Jesus as a standard left back quickly gave way to Roma’s more familiar 3-5-2ish formation, with Rruan filling in for Palmieri, and Bruno Peres pushing way up the pitch on the opposite side.
And while the wingbacks were the story of the pre-match, it didn’t take long for one of Roma’s stalwarts to make his mark.
Radja Nainggolan: 12th Minute
GOLAZO Nainggolan!! Inter 0-1 Roma pic.twitter.com/0nfkOdFb1t— Serie A English (@SerieA_English) February 26, 2017
Mamma mia, just when you think this guy can’t get any better, he pulls this out of his pocket, and against one of the game’s best keepers at that! After Edin Dzeko spread the play out wide to Nainggolan, he wasted little time, cutting in towards the 18 yard box and unfurling this beauty, beating the outstretched hands of Samir Handanovic at the far post. Just an absolutely incredible effort from Nainggolan; he was cool, calm and decisive—no wasted effort, just pick a spot and let it rip.
The remainder of the first half was rather Roma-centric, as the Giallorossi were propelled by the usual suspects—Dzeko, Nainggolan and Mohamed Salah—each of whom had chances to double Roma’s lead as the half wore on. Roma’s link up play through the middle was fantastic in the first 45; they had little to no problem ushering the ball up the pitch through Jesus and Peres, shuffling it off to Daniele De Rossi or Kevin Strootman, who then found Salah, Peres and even Dzeko out wide. Roma stretched the Inter defense in every direction, and were a hair's breadth away from scoring again.
While Inter would press the issue early in the second half, Nainggolan once again made his case for being the most complete midfielder in the world.
Radja Nainggolan: 56th Minute
GOLAZO Nianggolan!! Inter 0-2 Roma pic.twitter.com/OpyvCcqzRV— Serie A English (@SerieA_English) February 26, 2017
This thing was just gorgeous from start to finish. Charging ahead on a three v three rush, Nainggolan seemingly had it in his mind to shoot from the minute he touched the ball at midfield. Helped by Salah’s dummy run to the right—which was just fucking genius because it drew his defender away to the left and created a moment’s hesitation for Radja’s marker—Nainggolan gripped it and ripped it, once again burying the ball in the far post past the helpless hands of Handanovic.
Unless he walks off the pitch and slaps Totti in the face, Nainggolan has earned a perfect 10 today— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) February 26, 2017
I’m not sure what else needs to be said about this guy: he’s a complete player in every respect, he loves Roma, he’s relentless...and he even hates Juve!
We’ll tell the rest of the tale of this match via Tweets
Wife stealer grabs a goal, 2-1 Roma— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) February 26, 2017
You just knew this one wasn’t going to end 2-1, and it was even money that Mauro Icardi would make his name known at some point.
After Dzeko drew a penalty on Medel, Perotti did his usual ‘thang, slotting home the PK cool as you like, giving Roma 3-1 lead. At this point, Spalletti officially took his foot off the gas....
Vermaelen is on....thats cute— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) February 26, 2017
Well, regardless of the final scoreline, Roma survived the first stage of their late February/ early March gauntlet, handling an Inter side that had won five straight matches with ease. Icardi’s goal notwithstanding, Roma dominated this match, making smart, incisive movements, keeping the play fast and loose. Fazio, Nainggolan, Szczesny, Dzeko and Strootman were all in top form today, dominating the backline, midfield and attacking third, respectively.
And, to top it all off, thanks to Atalanta’s victory over Napoli yesterday, Roma now have a five point lead over third place Napoli. Not too shabby, with the Scudetto all but gone, hanging onto second place is the main objective.
Up next is Roma’s midweek, Coppa Italia derby on Wednesday. See you then!