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Roma and Inter Draw 1-1, Leave Champions League Spots in Flux

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A draw from A.C. Milan before the match only amplified the stakes in this one. So, naturally, we got a draw.

FC Internazionale v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Even before Inter-Roma started at the San Siro, the San Siro’s other residents had given the Giallorossi and the Nerazzurri a wonderful gift. A 1-1 draw for A.C. Milan against Parma meant that Roma could leapfrog the Rossoneri in the standings and once again find themselves in a Champions League spot. For Inter, a win against Roma combined with a Milan draw could have meant actual security, both for Inter in a Champions League spot and for Luciano Spalletti as their manager. A match that had already looked huge for the future of Inter and Roma had only become even more huge with Milan’s slip-up.

Although Roma were missing Daniele De Rossi, Rick Karsdorp, Kostas Manolas, and former Inter man Davide Santon, the Giallorossi’s first twenty minutes of play in this match were among their best all season. Edin Dzeko looked like the player who was the 2016/2017 capocannoniere, performing beautiful give and gos with Aleksandar Kolarov, finding himself head-to-head with Samir Handanovic regularly, and setting up Stephan El Shaarawy for just a beauty of a goal.

Stephan El Shaarawy: 14th Minute (Inter 0, Roma 1)

Watch this goal, then watch it again, then watch it again. El Shaarawy dummies past two defenders after screaming his way down Inter’s left flank before finally hitting a rocket of a goal off of his right foot. Samir Handanovic has been a thorn in Roma’s side for as long as I can remember, and for good reason; he’s a fantastic goalkeeper, one who could certainly start at many world-class clubs. You just don’t save these ones, though.

The fact that this is El Shaarawy’s tenth goal of the season only amplifies how central he has been to Roma’s hopes and dreams. SES has always provided a little bit of la maggica since he arrived at Trigoria, but this season in particular has seen the Italian show his worth as a key forward for a Champions League contending side. Not bad for a guy written off as just another wunderkind flop following his transfer away from Milan.

The rest of the first half was quite touch-and-go, with Antonio Mirante alternating between incredible saves and head-scratching blunders. Aleksandar Kolarov and Federico Fazio both showed signs of life as defenders, and Juan Jesus didn’t completely mess up Roma’s gameplan. That meant that when Inter turned on the heat towards the end of the first half with a series of attacks, Roma was able to hold firm (at least on the scoreline).

The second half saw Nicolo Zaniolo come on immediately for Cengiz Under, who has been (relatively) unimpressive this season while dealing with a smattering of injury issues. Zaniolo almost immediately gave Lorenzo Pellegrini a chance on goal, but the trequartista used the wrong foot, wasting a beautiful chance to extend Roma’s lead.

Ivan Perisic: 61st Minute (Inter 1, Roma 1)

It’s really a shame that Pellegrini’s chance didn’t become a goal, and in all honesty, Roma could have been up 3-0 if the conversion gods were kinder. Unfortunately, they weren’t, and Inter’s D’Ambrosio leveled the playing field with a nice-looking cross to Ivan Perisic. I hate to say it, but you have to blame Alessandro Florenzi for this one - we may need to restart the “is he a good enough right-back for Roma” conversation in the near future.

Inter gained a lot of confidence from this goal, and generally speaking, the first twenty of the second half was full of chances for both sides. Despite this, Roma certainly became more passive and underwhelming in the second half, and this Perisic goal is the direct result. A 1-1 draw at this point in the game felt fair, and it was apparent that if a club wanted to win the game, they’d really have to work very hard for it.

As the eightieth minute rolled around, it didn’t seem like much movement would happen on the scoreline. Sure, both clubs were trying, but without much affect. Would neither club seize on the other Milanese club’s blunder?

Conclusions

FC Internazionale v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

The answer is no. Neither club really seized the moment. Both Radja Nainggolan and Nicolo Zaniolo, two players who will be linked for the rest of their careers, provided very little for their clubs. Roma and Inter had great moments, mediocre moments, and moments that caused a bit of confusion. Inter’s dominance of possession (68% possession to 32%) doesn’t tell the whole story, as Roma’s counter-attacking regularly gave the Nerazzurri headaches.

Outside of Juventus and Napoli, no side in Serie A seems completely determined to snag a spot in the Champions League. This is good news for Roma, but bad news for Romanisti, as watching a Roma match will now not only cause temporary increases in blood pressure, but long-term increases as well. Every minute left in the season for Roma will be a chance for the Giallorossi to ensure a spot in the Champions League. Every minute left in the season for Roma will be a chance for them to kickstart a massive fire sale by missing out on Europe’s cash cow.

Buckle up, everybody. The next few weeks are going to be interesting.