Inter 5-3 Roma: Sneijder stars in a great game

February 7, 2011

The starting line-ups

Inter won a crazy game to move within five points of leaders Milan – and they still have a game in hand.

Leonardo played Giampaolo Pazzini and Samuel Eto’o but left out Diego Milito in order to bring back Wesley Sneijder.

Claudio Ranieri also went with a 4-3-1-2 shape – he was without Francesco Totti and David Pizarro

In stark contrast to many 4-3-1-2 v 4-3-1-2 battles so far this season, this game was very exciting. Both teams played attack-minded football and got both their full-backs and carrileros forward into attack, but also defended very poorly in the midfield zone.

Flimsy midfields

Part of the reason for the poor work without the ball was that neither side was using a true holding player to try and nullify the opposition’s trequartista. Daniele De Rossi and Thiago Motta are both deep central midfielders, but hardly Claude Makelele types – De Rossi is better when he can be more energetic, whilst Motta is a passer rather than a destroyer (with usual holder Esteban Cambiasso pushed out to the left, where he looks less comfortable).

Motta is very good with the ball but not particularly good at defending, which sums up Leonardo’s approach under Inter – all the focus on attacking. Few games will typify the ‘you score as many as you like, we’ll score one more’ attitude as well as this one. As a result of the flimsy midfields, Wesley Sneijder and Jeremy Menez got a lot of space to work in – Sneijder was much better and Inter were more creative.

Sneijder and Maicon on form

Sneijder got Inter off to a great start with a brilliant goal in the third minute – striking the ball perfectly on the bounce, and therefore generating the power his short backlift wouldn’t have provided. Having scored zero Serie A goals in a year, Sneijder netted for the second game running, and his confidence was given a boost, as he went onto have a superb game. For the goal, he had received a pass from Maicon on the right, and the right-back was the game’s other key player.

With Fabio Simplicio making diagonal runs across the pitch into attacking positions, and De Rossi wary of coming over to cover for him because he’d leave Sneijder free, Maicon and Houssine Kharja created 2 v 1 situations against John Arne Riise, and worked the ball around him easily. The situation became even worse for Riise just before half-time, when Samuel Eto’o moved to that flank and scored Inter’s second.

Full-backs

Between those Inter goals, however, Roma had scored an equaliser, through Simplicio. This also owed a lot to an attacking right-back – Marco Cassetti, who stormed forward unmarked to receive a pass in the final third, before crossing for Simplicio. The key to the goal, however, was Marco Borriello’s brilliant off-the-ball run – he started from the right channel, checked that Cassetti was overlapping, before cutting across the pitch and taking Javier Zanetti inside and opening up space. An important aspect in the exciting game was that movement upfront – unlike many 4-3-1-2 v 4-3-1-2 battles, the forwards here all showed good movement, dragging their centre-backs around and providing width.

The sides stayed the same for the second half, though Ranieri instructed Mirko Vucinic to move out the left more (as he did for the majority of last season) to pin back Maicon. This worked quite well – but Inter were still the better side with Sneijder pulling the strings. He dropped deep and sent a great ball over the top of the defence for Pazzini, who was brought down by Nicolas Burdisso. Burdisso was off, Eto’o scored the penalty, and at 3-1 and 11 v 10, the game appeared over.

11 v 10

Ranieri had to introduce another centre-back, so called on Simone Loria, removing Menez which meant Roma had little creativity after the red card. However, he also replaced the two carrileros – Rodrigo Taddei came on for Simone Perrotta and Leandro Greco replaced Simplicio, which meant Roma had energy in midfield despite having fewer players.

Motta headed in for number four, and Leonardo brought on Yuto Nagatomo for Sneijder, with Inter apparently safe. However, two goals from set-pieces got Roma back to 4-3 and a crazy few minutes ensued, but Inter managed to relieve the pressure by giving the ball to their full-backs (who had no direct opponent with Roma 4-3-2) and telling them to take it forward – Nagatomo bombed down the left, whilst Zanetti showed incredible energy having moved to the right. As Roma sent men forward, Cambiasso slid in the final goal of the game to make it 5-3.

Conclusion

A great tactical battle early on descended into a somewhat farcical (if wonderfully entertaining) game late on. Inter were the better side and maximised their advantage down the right in the first half, whilst Sneijder was back to his best in the centre.

Roma were slightly disappointing when they had the ball – Menez wasn’t on his game, and the 4-3-1-2 demands a big contribution from the trequartista.

Inter 5-3 Roma: Sneijder stars in a great game

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