Richard Hall’s Nerazzurri Classics: Zanetti vs. Totti, the early years
Every week SempreInter.com editorialist, Richard Hall, takes a look back at the glorious history of Inter. This week ahead of Inter-Roma, he looks at Inter and Roma icons Javier Zanetti and Francesco Totti’s early careers with their respective sides.
Roma had travelled to Milan to face Inter back in the glorious late 1990’s when Calcio certainly did rule the World. Amongst the plethora of stars two fresh faced men took to the field to face off in what would be fine example of their titanic clashes that would spread over the next two decades. Francesco Totti had been around the Roma first team since 1992 whilst Javier Zanetti arrived in Italy in 1995.
The 1997/98 season promised much for the Nerazzurri as they changed coaches and bought a certain striker called Ronaldo. Inter had not renewed Roy Hodgson contract in the summer and instead had replaced him with Luigi Simoni. The club had invested heavily, especially in the Brazilian who had arrived from Barcelona for a world record fee. Their ranks included the likes of Gianluca Pagliuca, a young Javier Zanetti, Diego Simeone and the veteran Giuseppe Bergomi. This as mixed with an array of attacking talent including Youri Djorkaeff, Ivan Zamorano and Alvaro Recoba. It was believed that a title challenge could certainly be mounted.
In the build up to the game in Rome, Inter were in devastating form. In their opening eleven games they won eight and drawn three and laid down a marker to the rest of Serie A. These victories had included a 2-3 win away at Fiorentina, a 0-2 win away at Napoli and an impressive 1-0 home win against Parma. The draws had come in the Derby Della Madonnina, against Sampdoria and Lazio herby being extremely credible.
Roma arrived in imperious form also, winning six, drawing four sand losing only once, 3-1 in the Derby Della Capitale. They had been scoring for fun also, hitting Napoli for six (6-2) and beating Parma 2-0. They had drawn with Juventus and Fiorentina and with the likes of Cafu, Aldiar, Ivan Helguera, Abel Balbo and Marco Delvecchio they were no slouches.
The game kicked off with a packed Stadio Giuseppe Meazza in full voice and the home side were inspired. Roma neutralised the Nerazzurri for much of the first half however but with five minutes to go until the break Simeone found himself through only to be brought down by Austrian goalkeeper Michael Konsel. Despite the Argentines cries it was only a yellow card but the penalty was soundly converted by Djorkaeff for the opening goal.
The crowd were only just warming after half time; the weather was crisp but it was December. As the game seemed to be settling in a ball from the wing was directed towards Luigi Sartor who instead of trying to head for goal, delicately cushioned it into the path of Marco Branca who hammered home to put Inter 2-0 ahead. The game was looking bleak for Roma and it got even worse when Matteo Pivotto, unable to cope with the marauding Javier Zanetti, scythed him down and was sent off for his second bookable offence.
The final indignity was yet to come but what happened next was suicidal. An innocuous back pass by Francesco Colonnese was chased down by Totti but instead of following the ball (now with the keeper) he clattered the Inter back and received his marching orders for the hassle. It was a petulant challenge that shocked the travelling support.
Inter would have the last laugh and Javier Zanetti would be involved again, his cross found Ivan Zamorano in space with 20 minutes to go. The Chilean side footed the ball first time and it was helped into the net thanks to a deflection from Fabio Petruzzi. It was a superb finish to a game the Nerazzurri had dominated. Roma’s indiscipline had put pay to their hard work and Inter would march on. They would finish second that term and win the UEFA Cup beating another Roman side, Lazio in the final.
Words: Richard Hall – Follow him at @gentleman_ultra