The anticipation and the media build-up before the clash between two of Italy’s giants drew parallels with the greatest pieces from the Italian opera. In the end, the reviews weren’t looking very good for either of the protagonists at La Scala del Calcio.
Inter and Roma seem to have forgotten that they are in the entertainment business and the home side’s faithful even started to jeer their own uninspiring presentation. It was surely not a league leader’s performance. Inter didn’t seem to have the creativity on hand to break down a solid Roma side and kept on banging on the same locked door.
Coach Antonio Conte was angry at his own crowd after slipping up, claiming they need to support the team to get the performances they need. The tactician has been rigid in his formation and doesn’t seem willing to change his style of play, even when he is losing one key member after another.
Nicolò Barella and Stefano Sensi were vital in the team’s early success, they are both out, but Conte is just filling in the gaps with another set of legs – not capable of providing the same end product. The 3-5-2 of Conte has been a huge success in the past, but as much as Inter are struggling with the depth in the squad, they are also lacking a Plan B when nothing seems to be working.
Romelu Lukaku was again the focal point for the Nerazzurri, with Lautaro Martinez running off him. And they were somewhat dangerous also on Friday night, but not convincing. Chris Smalling seemed to be in control of the duel between the former Manchester United duo, neutralizing Lukaku by following the Belgian attacker’s every move.
When the chances presented themselves for the home side, it would more often than not come from sloppy passing or defensive errors from the Roma players, who appeared to have travelled to Milan to bring home a point.
The Giallorossi were dealt a massive blow when Edin Dzeko was ruled out of the first XI because of illness. He did get on late in the game, but was obviously struggling and hardly touching the ball. He also appeared to have visibly lost weight over the last week.
Paulo Fonseca tried to be clever by handing Nicolò Zaniolo a False 9 role, largely because anything is preferable to starting Nikola Kalinic upfront, but Roma’s long strings of passes made precious little impact. They were tightly organised to stop any Inter move, drag the tempo out of the all-important clash and maybe steal the points from a rare chance to get on target.
The atmosphere when the two sides entered the pitch was amazing. And it built up during the initial 15 minutes of the game, starting off with chances at both ends. Zaniolo showed his muscles and skill when he got past the Nerazzurri veteran Diego Godin to fire straight at Samir Handanovic. That was really it for the away side.
Godin didn’t let them get any other possibilities and was probably the most positive sign for the Inter fans after the full 90 minutes. He had the Roma attackers in his pocket and probably played his best match in an Inter shirt so far.
Despite both squads being drastically reduced, Antonio Candreva’s injury on the stroke of half-time made the situation at Inter even worse. The depth in the squad has been an issue over recent months and they are just trying to hang on until the Christmas break.
Ultimately, both teams were missing those key elements at San Siro on Friday night, as Inter only created via Roma gifts and the Giallorossi were toothless in attack.