Usually in this paragraph I try and set the stage for what Roma were up against as they entered any given match: could be keeping a winning streak alive or halting a losing skid and sometimes it's even the weather. However, if you were with us all week, you knew the score: Roma were dealing with a wave of injuries in virtually every area of the pitch.
A wave which necessarily prompted some tinkering from Eusebio Di Francesco, but rather than me dissecting it, let's see what Will Ferrell thinks:
Florenzi, Zaniolo and Ünder pic.twitter.com/wrusi3K7lw— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) December 2, 2018
EDF had to make a few changes, but none as intriguing as rolling with Alessandro Florenzi, Cengiz Ünder and Nicolo Zaniolo supporting Patrik Schick up top. We've certainly seen Florenzi as a winger before, but how often is he deployed on the left? It was an interesting quirk for sure, one that almost paid dividends in the first half.
However, the first ten to twenty minutes of this match was a veritable stalemate, with neither side capable of mounting much of anything, but it was within that neutral period that Zaniolo started to show his quality. Whether he was tracking back to snuff out a counter attack, firing audacious but completely justified attempts at goal, or simply bodying his man out of the ball, Zaniolo looked savvy and sophisticated out there, particularly for a 19-year-old.
Things began to open up a bit as the match moved closer to the 30 minute mark. With Roma pressing forward, Florenzi and Schick almost combined for a stunning goal. With Schick taking his man on from the left and driving towards the end line, he dropped an almost Totti like backheel, finding Florenzi streaking in the box—it would have been one of the best plays of the season had Florenzi not clanged it off the crossbar.
Zaniolo would continue his incisive play, nearly drawing a PK a few minutes later as he was taken down at the edge of the box. While the contact wasn't exactly akin to a blow from a young Mike Tyson, it was contact nonetheless, the defender clipped Zaniolo's trailing leg, but no call was given and no VAR was consulted.
You can blame Fabbri, the referee overseeing VAR...but look at the position of Rocchi.— John Solano (@Solano_56) December 2, 2018
How is he missing this? pic.twitter.com/nCUAUYMtAK
And, well, you know what happens next. Inter scored several minutes later when Keita Balde found space on the right flank, blasting one past a helpless Robin Olsen.
And that's how the first half closed: decent build up from Roma at times, torn asunder by horrific finishing.
Roma would make up for that poor finishing pretty quickly in the second half.
Cengiz Ünder: 51st Minute
CENGIZ! CENGIZ! MADONNA MIA! CENGIZ! GOOOOOOL pic.twitter.com/QZJzTMolfC— RomaPress (@ASRomaPress) December 2, 2018
This one practically came out of nowhere. Whether or not Handanvoic was screened doesn't matter, Ünder caught everyone by surprise and delivered a sensational shot from distance, dropping it right past a helpless and shell-shocked Handanovic.
The game was on and both sides could practically sense the madness that would ensue, and in typical Roma fashion, it would be an error of grandeur that opened the door for Inter Milan to take the lead.
We've lauded (rightly so) Davide Santon for his play this year for good reason; he's been much better than advertised, providing Roma with steady, and at times great, play at both full back spots. He wasn't exactly the über prospect many thought he'd be a decade ago, but he quickly became a viable member of Roma's rotation.
However, today I'm afraid he was feeling himself just a bit too much. Midway through the second half, Santon found himself buried deep in Roma's half with no real escape plan, and rather than hoofing it up the pitch to relieve the pressure, Santon decided to take on three men, and while he was able to beat the first two, he was quickly dispossessed by third.
Now, in and of itself, that's no big deal, but that turnover led to a corner, which quickly led to a Mauro Icardi goal, giving Inter Milan a 2-1 lead.
Pretty poor marking on that set piece (per usual) from Roma, but that corner would not have happened were it not for Santon's error, but since we praised him for similar play earlier in the year, I won't be too hard on him.
In a measure of how crazy this match was, Roma would claw back once again thanks to...you ready for this...a VAR call! I know, it sounds almost impossible, but Rocchi did the right thing and consulted the replay after an apparent handball by Inter in the box.
All of which resulted in this...
Aleksandar Kolarov: 74th Minute
No mystery here, just grip it and rip it. Kudos to Kolarov for not messing around and just burying it low and away.
Both sides would make changes as the second half waned, including the first appearances for Diego Perotti and Javier Pastore in several months. Having both Argentines available for service should certainly aid Roma in her quest for goals, but with so little time to settle in this match neither were a factor.
While the match accrued five additional minutes, neither side was able to change the scoreline, and both sides walked away with one wild point each.
I'm not exactly sure what this match means for Roma's near future: was it enough to save EDF's job? Was it ever truly in danger anyway? Was this a good performance, a bad one or entirely in-between?
Certainly, Roma didn't play well in the strictest sense. They barely had possession, particularly in the first half, and when they did, their finishing was awful, but still they did just enough to claw back into the match...twice, and that is sure to resonate with a certain section of the fanbase, if not the team or Pallotta himself.
Despite the somewhat pleasant scoreline, there wasn't much to hang your hat on in this match. Di Francesco still has no idea what to do with Schick, who was more of a distributor tonight than a finisher, which is really more a testament to his incredible skill set than anything. We've mentioned it ad nauseam, but at €42 million, Roma's future may depend on unlocking the secret to his success; Dzeko is struggling in the league and the goals have to come from somewhere; Ünder and El Shaarawy stunners can't be their only recourse.
With this draw, Roma are now stuck in seventh place, one point out of Europa League qualification and a distant five behind AC Milan for Italy's final Champions League spot. There are still 24 weeks of play left of course, but as we just asked, was this performance enough to convince you that things are heading in the right direction?