Straight from the dark heart of Italy
If Carlsberg broadcast Serie A matches they would show Inter - Roma every week.
Sunday evening’s goal-fest at the San Siro was a perfect advert for the Italian game, and will be remembered as a bona-fide classic.
The teams shared eight goals – although in truth it could easily have double figures – and a red card as Inter pulled themselves back into the title race, just five points behind leaders AC Milan with a game in hand.
The home side scored five in what was a five-star performance all round - if Roma’s potential starred and striped savours were watching from Boston then they too should be rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of becoming part of the show.
Everyone wanted to get involved, from the referee - who was as much at the centre of the action as the players - to the fans, who started waving the white handkerchiefs in an Italian version of the pañolada after Houssine Kharja was booked just before the break.
Certainly the crowd reaction was more in keeping with a La Liga match – while the apparent lack of tactical planning bar ‘get the ball forward as quickly as possible’ was pure Premier League.
There was so much to enjoy that it is difficult to know where to begin: Douglas Maicon’s drag-back inside his own area when surrounded by opposition players springs to mind. Or Wesley Sneijder, finally recovered from injury and illness, hitting a stunning opener to set the tone for the evening. Or perhaps Jeremy Menez refusing to stand in the shadow of Eto’o and Vucinic, with a couple of mazy runs that cut a swathe through the opposition ranks.
Then, there was the man well versed in attacking football of the Spanish variety, Eto’o - who just edged Vucinic for man of the match. The former Barcelona striker grabbed two goals and could easily have had four although he was helped by the visitor’s weak link, goalkeeper Julio Sergio who failed to hold anything aimed at his hands.
At the other end, however, Julio Cesar was in inspired form - making three crucial saves in one Roma attack at the start of the second half when the game was still evenly poised.
Attacking football has always come easily to both of these sides and in general the gold standard is that there are very few dull games at the San Siro, but the difference between the teams was in terms of strength and depth.
Leonardo had been presented with four reinforcements in the winter transfer market while Claudio Ranieri had been left to stare into an empty transfer kitty – and he must wonder if the Americans do decide to invest then he may not be there to enjoy the benefits.
When Roma can field there preferred starting XI, which means Francesco Totti down the pecking-order, then they are a match for anyone. However the centre of defence will always be a worry, despite the heroic efforts of Juan and to a certain extent Daniele De Rossi in front of the back four. Against Inter, Nicolas Burdisso was easily dragged out of position and then lured into a foul on Giampaolo Pazzini, which lead to his subsequent sending-off.
If things are not going according to plan for Inter, they can always give the ball to Eto’o to speed off down either flank, but Thiago Motta has become a very assured operator in the withdrawn role in midfield which enables Esteban Cambiasso to play in a more advanced role.
There is still a long way to go in the title race and if we get a few more champagne calcio evenings such as this, who needs the beer?
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