After finishing second in the league and winning UEFA Cup year before, an Inter side led by manager Luigi Simoni were expected to be Scudetto favorites with a front line of Ronaldo, Roberto Baggio and Ivan Zamorano. However, a poor start to the season led to dismissal of Simone and appointment of Mircea Lucescu and Luciano Castellini respectively. Both managers failed to turn around the season for the Nerazzurri which led to the return of Roy Hodgson to the team as a caretaker manager in his second stint.
Leading up to the round thirty-one match at Stadio Olimpico against an inform AS Roma side led by the attacking trio of Marco Delvecchio, Paulo Sergio and Francesco Totti, who had only lost once in six games leading up to the match against Inter who had managed to win just once in last ten matches. The stage was set for a resounding win for the Giallorossi and a clear path for Roma into top four finish, with the season winding down.
Zdenek Zeman had AS Roma line up in his preferred 4-3-3 formation with Austrian Michael Konsel in goal and a back four of Zago, Aldair, Vincent Candela, Marco Quadrini and noticeable absence of Brazilian fullback, Cafu. Midfield trio of Eusebio Di Francesco, Dmitri Alenichev and former Inter midfielder, Luigi Di Biagio. In attack was the formidable trio of Paulo Sergio, Marco Delvecchio and Francesco Totti.
Hodgson had the visiting Inter side start in a 4-3-1-2 formation with Pagliuca in goal and backline of Giuseppe Bergomi, Francesco Colonnese, Dario Simic and Mikael Silvestre. Midfield trio of Diego Simeone, Benoit Cauet, Javier Zanetti with Roberto Baggio as trequartista, Ivan Zamorano and Ronaldo as the attacking duo.
With nothing to play for but pride, Inter started the game out with attacking intent. Roberto Baggio dictated the attacking flow of the team as the architect of the offense. The chemistry between Baggio and Ronaldo was absolutely brilliant right from the start. As soon as Baggio received the ball from Simeone, Ronaldo gave him one quick look and took off like a rocket and Baggio played a perfectly weighted ball over the top to Ronaldo who only had an on-rushing keeper to beat. He dribbled around Konsel for an early goal for the visitors, 1-0 Inter ahead at Olimpico.
Inter continued to pile the pressure on the home side with Baggio and Ronaldo dominating the attack and resulting in Roma having to double team them to cope with the early onslaught. This opened up the attack for Zamorano and he took full advantage of the ample space left for him to give Nerazzurri 2-0 lead following a failed corner kick clearance by Roma defense, allowing Baggio to cross the ball to a wide open Zamorano.
With early momentum clearly in favor of Inter, Roma fought back and got their first break of the game as Paulo Sergio as brought down inside the box by Bergomi. Totti converted the resulting penalty kick for the Giallorossi to bring Roma within one goal margin. Despite conceding a goal, Inter continued to pile pressure on Roma. However, the double team strategy of Roma was leaving players unmarked in Inter midfield. On one such occasion, Zanetti took full advantage of the space and dribbled through a crowded Roma midfield to play an exquisite through ball from the outside of his boot to Zamorano. With center-backs closing down and goal-keeper rushing in to close the gaps, Zamorano brilliantly chipped Konsel to score his second of the game and Inter’s third to give a commanding 3-1 lead going into half-time.
The Giallorossi were not going to go down with a fight! Inter had thus far managed to keep Totti, Sergio and Delvecchio in tight control through first half and Zeman needed to make some half-time adjustments to get his team back into the match. As play resumed, Roma slowed down the pace of the game and maintained possession earlier on to regain some momentum in attack. It didn’t take long for Giallorossi to get back into the match with two quick fire goals from Paulo Sergio and Marco Delvecchio. Both goals coming from headed opportunities after a long range pass into the box.
With scores all leveled at 3-3, Inter refused to give up and continued to fight despite the difficult run up to the game at Olimpico. Roma retained possession in their attempt to look for a go-ahead goal and methodically diffuse Baggio’s brilliance in Inter attack. However, Baggio managed to orchestrate another goal for Inter following a counter-attack opportunity as he played a perfect through ball to Zamorano. With a defender and goal keeper to beat, he cross the ball to a wide open Ronaldo who put Inter ahead once again with a 4-3 lead.
The Olimpico goal fest wasn’t over just yet as Roma drew the score level once again at 4-4 as current Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco scored from a brilliant pass from Paulo Sergio. As game headed towards conclusion as a 4-4 tie, Inter had one more goal in them. Continuing on with their fighting spirit, Diego Simeone won a header inside the box after a Baggio free-kick, giving Inter a very late fifth and game winning goal, ending the game at 5-4. This win also put a major dent in Giallorossi’s hopes of qualifying for the Champions League in following season. Inter walked away with the win and a brilliant performance at the Olimpico.