Roma 1-0 Inter: Roma win it from the bench
Substitute Mirko Vucinic scored a superb last minute header to record a crucial win for Roma.
Claudio Ranieri lined up with a 4-4-2 / 4-2-3-1 formation that saw Francesco Totti playing off Marco Borriello. Simone Perrotta was naturally more defensive on the left than Jeremy Menez was on the right.
Rafael Benitez played the usual 4-2-3-1 system. Their side was also slightly lopsided, as Goran Pandev was both deeper and more central than Samuel Eto’o. Dejan Stankovic played as a deep-lying regista.
The game was, for the most part, extremely frustrating to watch. Neither side were able to manufacture clear-cut chances – both defences sat relatively deep, meaning there was often a huge amount of space in the midfield but little space in behind, and neither side attacked with more than three or four players at once.
The two main threats from full-back, Maicon and John Arne Riise, were well marshalled by Simone Perrotta and Pandev respectively – whilst the midfield area was relatively static. David Pizarro and Dejan Stankovic acted as the two playmakers – Stankovic in particular had a good game – but both were unable to play the killer pass, partially as the two defences sat so deep and therefore deep midfield positions were difficult to create from.
Lack of goalmouth action
Roma’s forwards started by getting goalside of Stankovic and Esteban Cambiasso when they were without the ball, meaning Inter found it difficult to keep possession in the centre of midfield. This was an improvement on Roma’s defensive performance from the front compared to the Bayern Munich game – where Roma allowed Mark van Bommel and Bastian Schweinsteiger too much time on the ball.
With plenty of room in the midfield, long shots became a preferred route of attack for Inter. Wesley Sneijder had five shots, Stankovic had ten – one of which was the closest we got to a goal in the first half, when his long-range drive hit the crossbar.
Into the second half, the defences were still on top. Essentially, both sides were attacking with four players and defending with six, meaning the defensive sides generally had two spare men when defending. There was an element of a ‘broken team’ about both sides (this can often be a problem with 4-2-3-1s) – none of the four full-backs had any impact on the game in an attacking sense, and none of the four deep-lying midfielders were attempting to make driving runs towards goal.
Eventually the game opened out slightly, more players became dragged out of position, the tempo was higher – and the two paciest attacking players on the pitch became the key man. Inter’s was Eto’o, who picked up the ball and drove towards goal powerfully, and he had two good chances when he moved upfront after Diego Milito’s departure. Roma looked to Jeremy Menez, who also started wide and ran with the ball, though he rarely provided an end product.
It seemed like the only chance of getting a breakthrough would come from the substitute’s bench, and here Roma had the stronger attacking options. Inter turned to the youngster Coutinho and Sulley Muntari, but Roma were able to call on two experienced forwards, Julio Baptista and Vucinic.
Vucinic went onto win the game with an excellent header. In the space of a few seconds he showed tremendous centre-forward play in three different ways – by having the intelligence to make a run across the defenders towards the near post, the bravery to put his head in against Lucio’s raised foot, and the technical quality to angle his header across Julio Cesar and into the far post. It was a very rare moment of attacking quality in an otherwise underwhelming game.
A tight, cagey game but not an overwhelmingly ‘tactical’ one – both sides set up as expected, the battles across the pitch were all won by the defensive parties, and neither side looked to change their shape – with the arguable exception of Vucinic starting from the left and making runs inside.
Inter were disappointing – they seem to rely on individuals more than last year, when they were a tighter unit and more cohesive. The role of Sneijder is strange at the moment – last year he was excellent as a playmaker, but this year he seems to be in the side almost purely to shoot at goal, rather than to create (similar to his role for Holland at the World Cup). His World Cup performance has exaggerated his goalscoring ability, however – last season he only netted once from open play.Roma 1-0 Inter: Roma win it from the bench