The 2-2 draw at the Olimpico felt like a loss for both sides. Roma had been leading 2-1 and looking absolutely comfortable until Leonardo Spinazzola conceded one of the strangest penalties you are ever likely to see. Inter had originally gone in front and could certainly complain at the Aleksandar Kolarov challenge on Lautaro Martinez which sparked the equaliser on the stroke of half-time. Just as quickly as the Scudetto dream loomed back into view, it had evaporated again.
There is so much to be said about this match, from the new balance achieved by Paulo Fonseca switching to three at the back, making the most of his attacking wing-backs and creating space for the midfielders to push forward in support of Edin Dzeko, to the intriguing but ultimately failed experiment of using Marcelo Brozovic as a trequartista. Seemingly Antonio Conte would prefer anyone but Christian Eriksen in that role, a not so subtle message to the club that this was not the player he wanted in the January transfer window.
It's remarkable just how little the Nerazzurri created in the second half, with Pau Lopez barely tested and possession largely under Roman control. If it weren’t for Spinazzola’s double whammy of incompetence – an awful first touch followed by failing to notice Victor Moses looming, resulting in a comical swing and boot to the shin – it’s difficult to see how Inter would’ve got back into this game.
The tackle on Lautaro Martinez really was the perfect example of why VAR is not the panacea to resolve all controversy in football and never could be, no matter how much some might want to paint it as a failed bid to create uniformity. Issues like fouls will always be matters of interpretation and millions of people watched the same footage, including the referee, coming to very different conclusions. Ultimately, the decision has to lie with the official, he viewed it from every angle and made his evaluation. VAR makes it easier to avoid errors, but it cannot change someone’s interpretation of what represents a foul.
Conte would’ve had every right to complain about that incident, which did change the game going into the break. To his credit, he merely glossed over it and said referees can make mistakes just like players and coaches. It was unusually magnanimous of him.
Instead, the former Juventus and Chelsea boss decided to dive headlong into Jose Mourinho territory by going on an extended rant about the fixture list being “made to damage Inter.” All the teams are playing every three days, this is what they have to do during this bizarre compressed end to the campaign made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of all the sides having to deal with this, Inter ought to be one of those best-equipped, seeing as they would otherwise have been playing twice a week with Europa League or Coppa Italia commitments.
He even suggested the Nerazzurri are repeatedly given late kick-offs to hurt their prospects and recovery time, as they return home at 4am. Most clubs forced to play in the sweltering late July heat would relish the opportunity to have games starting at 21.45 local time, when there’s not even the need for a cooling break and the pace can be kept up without fear of wilting. It seems a very odd hill of protest to plant your flag on.
Conte complained that he is portrayed in the media as someone who always complains. That’s not a paradox, by the way, it’s just a spectacular lack of self-awareness with a delicious sprinkling of unintentional irony. A self-fulfilling litany.
People said Conte would bring the Juventus winning mentality to Pazza Inter, but San Siro has just brought out the worst aspects of his personality: the endless moaning, excuses, alibis and complaints. One could say he had been Interfied, but as any Chelsea fan will tell you, that was always in Conte’s wheelhouse.