Mauro Icardi’s 17th goal of the season took Inter Milan back into the hunt for a place in Europe next season and dented Roma’s Champions League aspirations with a 2-1 win. These sides used to battle for the Scudetto, Coppa Italia and Italian Super Cup, but went into this game in desperate need of a victory. The Nerazzurri had little chance of qualifying for Europe, while the Giallorossi were joint second with Lazio. Gary Medel and Davide Astori were suspended, though Fredy Guarin, Marcelo Brozovic, Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas returned from their bans. Gervinho was finally fit to start again after injury and boost a misfiring front line. The last 20 editions of this fixture in all competition provided 70 goals, an average of 3.5 per game, but Inter had failed to win any of their last seven meetings with Roma.The Roman side was looking to build up ground against city rivals, Lazio, who have leapfrogged Roma into second place in the table. As for the Nerazzurri, this match was an opportunity to put in a good performance and salvage some pride after a disappointing season, with Europe seeming less and less likely. Mancini relied on a similar lineup to last weekend with Gnoukouri keeping a place in the midfield and Hernanes holding down his starting position over Shaqiri. Moreover, Danilo was chosen ahead of Santon once again. Notably, Ibarbo and Gervinho started on Romaa s wings and with that pace up front Inter would need to be smart at the back.
The game began slowly and the only moment of note during the early exchanges was when Samir Handanovic parried Daniele De Rossia s speculative effort from 35 yards. The gamea s first moment of quality produced the opening goal from Intera s first meaningful attack. Rodrigo Palacio laid the ball off to Hernanes, who after taking a touch to evade Jose Holebas, fired home an unstoppable drive into the far corner from outside the box. Roma nearly drew level within five minutes, however Victor Ibarboa s effort struck the bottom of the post with Handanovic rooted to the spot. Hernanesa goal aside, the first half desperately lacked any finesse and quality. The Brazilian fired a snapshot wide before Ibarbo went on a mazy run past several Inter defenders, only to then run the ball out of play from a promising position.
Afer the restart Mauro Icardi twice failed to make the most of an inspired Guarin slide-rule pass that sent him one-on-one with Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, then Alessandro Florenzi blasted over following a poor clearance and Kostas Manolas nodded a corner off target. Roma were pouring forward and got their deserved equaliser. Andrea Ranocchia gave the ball away to Pjanic, who immediately found Nainggolan for a fierce angled drive. Handanovica s view was shielded by Juan Jesus. Guarin fired straight at De Sanctis at the near post, but Handanovic was at full stretch to fingertip away a Pjanic free kick and Nemanja Vidic was decisive on the rebound. The game became stretched and Inter coach Roberto Mancini took a gamble by sending on Xherdan Shaqiri and Lukas Podolski, fielding effectively six attacking players for the final 15 minutes. Both Ranocchia and Juan Jesus were booked, meaning theya ll be suspended next week. Icardi pounced on a defensive error with six minutes left on the clock only to balloon over the bar from 12 yards. That was only a warning, as Icardi got on the end of a Lukas Podolski through ball, turned his marker and beat De Sanctis from a tight angle for his 17th Serie A goal of the season. Palacio blasted inches over and Roma simply had nothing left to throw at them.
Without the few psychological errors this was a solid match from Inter, who certainly were not lacking anything compared to Roma. Notably, Vidic was very impressive in the second half and Kovacic looked great off the bench, making an incredible tackle on Iturbe. Lastly, Icardi missed a bunch of chances but he didna t let it get to him and buried one to seal all three points. The Nerazzurri have now played a few quality matches back to back and hopefully Inter can finish this season by giving their fans something to look forward to next year. Roberto Mancini’s Inter are now just four points from sixth-spot and a place in the Europa League qualifiers.
The result places some doubt on whether Roma will secure third position and with it, a Champions League play-off place. They are now only five points above fourth-placed Napoli, who have a game in hand. The Giallorossi have spent over a 40 million on forwards during the past two transfer windows yet have not scored so few goals after 32 Serie A games since 1994-95. Roma were investigated by Uefa earlier this season because of alleged breaches of the governing body’s Financial Fair Play regulations and if they fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League, there will be further scrutiny. Before the winter break, they were going toe-to-toe with Juventus for the Scudetto. Now, though, they’re fighting to hold off fourth-placed Napoli, who can draw to within two points of the Giallorossi by beating Sampdoria on Sunday. The disturbing reality is that Roma’s struggles on the field will, inevitably, have a massive bearing on their transfer dealings this summer.