Roma and Inter held each other up in a 1-1 draw at the Olimpico, as Rodrigo Palacio cancelled out a controversial Francesco Totti penalty.
This was a showdown for European places and prestige, not to mention a homecoming for ex-Roma youth academy Coach Andrea Stramaccioni. Both sides went to extra time this week in the Coppa Italia and will face each other again next Wednesday in the semi-final first leg.
The Nerazzurri were without a host of stars such as Antonio Cassano, Diego Milito, Walter Samuel, Philippe Coutinho, Ricky Alvarez, Dejan Stankovic and Luca Castellazzi, so Marko Livaja had his first Serie A start. Wesley Sneijder continues to be frozen out while he considers a move to Galatasaray. Francesco Totti and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo returned from injury, but Miralem Pjanic failed a fitness test after suffering from flu.
This tie last ended in a Serie A draw back in March 2006, followed by three wins each. After three minutes Osvaldo just failed to get a diving header on to Erik Lamela’s cross, then Michael Bradley couldn’t get on the end of a Totti pass across the face of goal.
Osvaldo had the ball in the back of the net after 10 minutes, but was flagged offside and it was incredibly close, a matter of inches.
The referee pointed to the spot in a contentious decision after 20 minutes. Totti’s slide-rule pass saw Bradley run through and Andrea Ranocchia’s sliding tackle was judged to be a penalty, though the American seemed to hurdle him. Totti stepped up to convert in powerful fashion, blasting it under the bar with genuine ferocity. It was the first time the captain had scored against Inter at the Olimpico in Serie A since October 2004.
A ricochet fell to Alessandro Florenzi for a volley wide from the D, while Mauro Goicoechea flapped a Ranocchia cross out for a corner. Lamela curled inches past the far top corner and Fredy Guarin blasted just off target too.
Livaja almost marked his first Serie A start with a goal, as he turned brilliantly between two defenders to control with his chest and the half-volley smacked against the outside of the post.
Moments later Totti sent Osvaldo through for an angled drive across the face of goal, then the Italian international’s daisy-cutter hit the side-netting. Juan Jesus nodded a corner just wide of the far stick.
Goicoechea flapped at another set piece and Cristian Chivu tried to bundle it over, but was denied by a crucial Federico Balzaretti goalline clearance.
It seemed to be heading into the break with Roma in front, but in stoppages Guarin showed great strength to reach the by-line and pulled back for Rodrigo Palacio to tap in from six yards.
Panagiotis Tachtsidis replaced Daniele De Rossi for the second half, but Osvaldo went clear and his touch was too heavy, allowing Samir Handanovic to take it off his foot. The goalkeeper immediately got back up to ensure Totti narrowed the angle too much.
Handanovic took the sting out of a sudden Ivan Piris snapshot and Livaja’s cheeky backheel flick was deflected for a corner. The impressive teenager Livaja drilled inches wide of the near post with the aid of a deflection, but then made way for ex-Lazio captain Tommaso Rocchi.
Osvaldo was just offside when nodding off target, saving his blushes. Balzaretti at full stretch just failed to get the extra touch as Osvaldo nodded down.
Piris ran on to a Bradley through ball, but fired wide at the near post rather than roll across for Lamela. Soon after the full-back had another great opportunity, his powerful shot skimming the crossbar.
Handanovic did well to get down and palm a dangerous Lamela strike off the line despite the fact it bounced right in front of him.