Gary Medel put Inter top of the table with his decisive goal against Roma, but Miralem Pjanic saw red at San Siro.
The Giallorossi dominated for long periods, but a combination of poor finishing and Samir Handanovic's saves neutered the leaders.
It was second against first with only two points separating them, but Roberto Mancini made some surprising changes. He gave Danilo D’Ambrosio his first start, above all dropping Mauro Icardi and Geoffrey Kondogbia so Adem Ljajic faced his former teammates. Felipe Melo was suspended and Daniele De Rossi only fit for the bench, while Francesco Totti, Seydou Keita and Kevin Strootman missed out.
Inter had won just one of the last 11 meetings with the Giallorossi, home and away in all competition. This was the fight between the best defence and most prolific attack in Serie A.
Fredy Guarin, wearing the captain’s armband, almost surprised Wojciech Szczesny from all of 70 yards out, but the goalkeeper plucked it out from under the bar.
Samir Handanovic at full stretch fingertipped an Edin Dzeko header just round the post, but moments later at the other end Szczesny had to flap away a dangerous Marcelo Brozovic effort that went across the face of goal.
Roma thought they had scored on 23 minutes when Handanovic only got one hand to a Douglas Maicon angled drive and Dzeko pounced on the rebound, but Danilo D’Ambrosio flung himself in his path for practically a goal-line clearance.
Inter took the lead when Gary Medel unleashed a daisy-cutter from 20 metres into the near bottom corner. It was precise, but Szczesny perhaps got down a little late and once again Roma have kept only one clean sheet this season. Chile international Medel celebrated his first Inter goal in 54 competitive appearances.
Guarin’s angled drive flashed wide of the far post from the edge of the box. Medel picked up a back problem and had to be replaced after the restart.
Handanovic again got down well to parry a Dzeko header off the line, but the Bosnian seemed sluggish and didn’t knock down a Maicon pass for Miralem Pjanic with enough alacrity.
Salah wasted a golden opportunity after out-sprinting his marker, firing straight at Handanovic at the near post. Moments later Handanovic performed a triple save in the same move, at full stretch on Alessandro Florenzi’s curler, stuck up a hand to parry the Salah follow-up from point-blank range and got on his feet to block another attempt by the Egyptian.
Kostas Manolas also nodded over the bar and Antonio Rudiger’s header was wide from a corner. Just as Roma were piling on the pressure, Pjanic foolishly stuck out an arm to block the ball and knew it would be his second yellow card. To make matters worse, this also means the Bosnian will be suspended for the Giallorossi’s next game, the Derby della Capitale with Lazio.
Szczesny kept Roma in the game with a fine reaction save on Brozovic’s acrobatic volley and the 10-man visitors continued to push forward, but Ivan Perisic threatened with a counter from Roma’s corner and found Szczesny’s foot at the near post.
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Sent off: Pjanic 73 (R)