Terzo Tempo – Roman Candles In The Rain
What a game eh. Inter went to the Olimpico with 17 points, in tenth place facing a strong Roma side. The Giallorossi started sitting on 28 and in 2nd place trailing Juventus by six points after a 93rd minute Pirlo winner in the Turin Derby. While Rudi Garcia’s men are chasing Juventus for the Scudetto, Inter is chasing a new identity that seems to be slowly forming under Roberto Mancini. The initial 11 point gap between the sides does not tell the whole story however.
Inter had scored 18 times, while Roma has done so on 21 occasions. Sure, seven were against Sassuolo, but since Roma hasn’t played them yet, we’ll count it for now. So three goals difference in attack going into this, and what difference in defense? Eight. The capital side had only let in seven goals while their Milanese counterparts had let in 15. That was a major difference in these sides, next to the fluidity of play and midfield dynamics of course. Inter had to shore up the defense and plank up the holes consistently found in the hull of this ship. That wasn’t to be seen tonight.
Initially we saw an Inter without Kovacic, with M’Vila slotting in to sit deep alongside Medel in a 4-5-1 defending, 4-2-3-1, in transition, and 4-2-2-2 in attack with Kuzmanovic on the left and Guarin on the right. Palacio would drop back a lot to defendThis while we all expected Guarin to play behind the strikers in a 4-3-1-2. Inter started VERY narrow, with a high press in a move to choke out Roma’s midfield engine, which somewhat worked initially. That was until Garcia made the orders to get the ball out wide right and attack Inter’s defensively weaker left wing.
Roma’s midfield of Nainggolan, Keita, and Pjanic quickly took control of the game after the initial proceedings. Totti dropped back in usual fashion pulling at Ranocchia in the first 20 minutes, then at Juan Jesus, inviting them out of the 18. This was particularly important because while Totti did this to the center defenders, Dodo was always slow to drop and defend. Inter’s defending was shambolic down the left as Dodo was consistently caught out against Gervinho, who alternated wings with Ljajic. Before the 15th minute Roma had a flurry of corners resulting from Maicon and Gervinho crosses as they overloaded that wing. Inter was always slow to get out of our half of the field, and this allowed Roma to set up defensively. As their zero goals conceded at home before kickoff showed, it was always going to be tough to attack them, let alone if it was done in a cumbersome manner. Dodo gave away possession multiple times as his weaknesses in transition showed against Roma’s wingers. Campagnaro and Ranocchia were also troubled repeatedly, the captain eventually receiving a yellow for a challenge on Maicon as he went to ground on the wing.
Roma’s first goal came at the 21st minure from an umpteenth attack down the right. Mancini should have noticed early on the problems coming from that side, but Garcia seemed to have trumped him to it. Maicon threaded it through for Ljajic, whose low cross was met by a simple tap in from Gervinho. Nainggolan easliy set up the attack with yet another switch of play from left to right, easily finding his comrades in acres of space.On 25 minutes, Kuz hit a first time shot off a long throw which was just saved by De Sanctis.
In the 33rd minute Gervinho scored an offside goal from…you guessed it, a counter on the right. By this point we’ve all been bashing our heads into the screens wondering how the SAME EXACT play keeps defeating us, all while we never seem to change shape to adjust. Dodo was yet again caught out. Just after this however, Kuzmanovic regained possession out wide left, culminating in a corner. His gorgeous delivery was met with a near post headed goal from Ranocchia to match. 1-1, game on.
For the rest of the half, Inter showed a resurgence and regained confidence. We kept a high line, which was dangerous, but it did catch Gervinho offside multiple times. All this while now Roma countered, still, through the left, then switching play out to the right. Inter began crossing well into the box via Guarin, showing shaky defending on balls in the air from the Roman defense.
Honors were even at half time, with neither team making subs. But only one minuted after the restart more lackadaisical defending led to too easy an impressive goal from Holebas. As he trotted up the pitch from his left-back berth, Guarin showed little interest in tracking back, as Campagnaro failed to close down, and Rano was bystander, being rounded as the Greek defender thumped in a far post strike past hopeless Handanovic.
2-1 now and Inter began to hold possession, yet failing to be dangerous. Osvaldo did however attempt an overhead effort just going wide from a Guarin cross. As Roma’s wings pushed up, Maicon drew another card out of Palacio on 56′.
Now end to end, the next minute Dodo’s run at the by line and cross back was met by a first-time effort from Osvaldo which deflected off Astori and in. 2-2. Game on. AGAIN. I admit, I did the machine-gun celebration with him, I think lots of us did. No? Just me? … Meh. While anything looked possible tonight, the sheer class of Roma’s midfield shined through again and again. Nainggolan was having a blinder. Making no mistakes, doing the leg work of a mule, constructing plays like a Broadway director, all while taking on players again and again with bursts of pace. He moved out left and wreaked havoc on our narrow defensive shape.
On 60′ Roma would take the 3-2 lead after a scrum in defense allowed Pjanic to prance into the area and cleanly slot away. For the 200,690,589th time Gervinho dashed past Dodo and JJ, and set up the play that led to goal. After taking the lead, Garcia brought on Florenzi for Ljalic, and De Rossi for Keita. Mancini reacted by bringing on Kovacic for M’Vila, whose frustration showed as he punched the glass in the dugout after coming off. Now a 4-3-1-2, Kovacic moved to the left, Kuzmanovic moved to the right, and Guarin moved at the tip of a midfield diamond.
A succession of plays down Inter’s left, both in attack and defense started the last quarter of the game. Dodo seemed dazed and confused after the blow from Muntari…he was called for a foul throw…In Serie A…professional football and…oh well… He gained possession well in one instance, and trying to dribble up field instead of passing, Totti robbed him of possession, setting up another dangerous Roma attack down their right wing. I’m beginning to repeat myself now aren’t I? I apologize if the entire game had one theme…
Inter needed good hold-up play from the two forwards this game as we set up so narrow, we needed time to build play and bring in width from the back. Campagnaro had to be wary in moving forward because of his, and Ranocchia’s lack of pace, but the few times he did, he was able to find space and put in good crosses. We sadly could not do this much as with Dodo doing TOO MUCH attacking and TOO LITTLE defending, much slower Campagnaro had to stay further back. WE NEED BETTER FULL BACKS. Not much could be expected of a makeshift right back, but you get my point. How many times were we caught out on the wings??
Mancini, who was sent off apparently after mouthing off the fourth official during the scrum after Roma’s third goal…as if Garcia never did the same…initiated the last two changes at 82′ with Icardi coming on for Dodo, and Obi coming on for Medel. There has to be something said about waiting so late for changes. I thought Obi needed to come on much sooner to cover Dodo, as Kuz was routinely ran past on that left wing that was torn a new one. Roma’s last sub came at 84 minutes with Iturbe coming on for Totti. Just that substitution shows you the gap in class between the two squads.
Man, if we got Nainggolan when we had the chance…or maybe we never did. Still, he just kept on being flawless, setting up Iturbe, and Gervinho in the closing minutes. Guarin did make a positive run down the right, and just when he entered the penalty box with players in positive positions, his cross sailed past everyone. Gervinho took on both Juan Jesus, and Ranocchia in the 90th minute and made them look elementary…GERVINHO GERVINHO GERVINHO. We’ve managed to make him look like Eusebio on that wing… Yes, he’s been good, but surely….maaaaaaaa whatever.
Roma sealed the result in the 91st minute after a foul from Guarin on Nainggolan that resulted in a free kick. Miralem Pjanic expertly curled in the effort from 22 yards. 4-2.
Garcia won the battle of the managers as he pin-pointed the softest spot in our defense. Mancini’s hands were tied with many injuries and a team in complete transition, in multiple understandings of the term. But the players simply made too many mistakes. And against this Roma side, those will be punished. You know, hey…this means Juventus didn’t put any more space between themselves and Roma tonight…which is something to be thankful of in and of itself… I know many who would rather Roma trump the Bianconeri to the Scudetto if it meant a loss tonight. While I’m not completely of that opinion, I do try and find the silver linings. That’s one.
One glaring issue is our defensive organization. We desperately need full-back options in the January mercato. Something has to be done about our center backs constantly being caught out of position and isolated. We managed to clog up the midfield, but Roma simply played out to the wings, and we were unable to adapt. I will be the first one to say however, while Roma showed our flaws, we definitely are fighting for Europa league and at the very best Champions League, while Roma has every chance of winning the Scudetto. There is a glaring difference in the squads and those available tonight, so I’m not too perturbed about this result. We scored, and showed spirit to come back twice, even if our wide defenders were ravaged like a pretty-boy on his first night in jail.
We now sit tied for 11th with Palermo on 17 points. Six points from third place…Genoa. So we’re not out by any means, but still, we gotta get it together soon.
Hey, we weren’t scoring under Mazzarri, now we’re scoring. We definitely were still shipping goals, so at least we’re doing something at the other end now right? Listen, all I’m saying is that this squad isn’t of the quality to do too many things at once, not yet, we could get there in time, and especially if we have a productive mercato. I’m still positive after this result. Now, I’ll get to the pasta, and bid y’all farewell. I’ve been Mahdi, and you’ve been awesome. Peace out fratelli.