On another day, slamming in a late penalty to earn a hard-fought point away to Roma would’ve felt like an achievement. But not on Sunday.
Inter knew what was at stake going into this game. A victory would’ve moved them within three points of the Serie A summit, and piled pressure on Juventus ahead of their clash with Lazio on Monday.
The Old Lady, it must be remembered, have spent the last two weeks standing on the street offering the Scudetto to any interested passers-by.
But they’ve been met with blank stares by their likeliest challengers. Lazio took one look up the street before turning around and heading off in another direction.
Atalanta were interested, but had to come from the other side of town and were too late.
Inter have been indecisive, making suggestive eye contact without having the confidence to march up and take the prize on offer.
A draw is unlikely to be enough for the Nerazzurri to mount what was, in all honesty, an unlikely Scudetto bid to begin with.
They are now five points behind Juventus who, considering injuries and form, should be reasonably confident of getting the result they need against Lazio.
That shouldn’t detract from what’s been a good first season for Antonio Conte, though.
His side have already picked up 72 points, three more than they finished with last season, with another four rounds to go.
With 37 points on the road, they have the best away record in the league.
There have been moments they will regret – taking one point from games against Bologna and Verona earlier this month for example – but there are plenty of positives too.
New signings like Romelu Lukaku and Nicolo Barella have settled quickly, youngsters like Lautaro Martinez and Alessandro Bastoni have flourished and there is still a lot more to come from Christian Eriksen.
The high of Lukaku’s late penalty in Rome was laced with the bitterness of it not being enough.
But it secured their place in next season’s Champions League and sent them clear of Atalanta in second place.
The runners-up spot isn’t a place that Nerazzurri fans will ever be content to occupy, but if they can hold onto it, it will mark an improvement on what has come before – and set them up for a more concerted push next year.
Pride and pain for Fonseca
This was a big night for Paulo Fonseca. Three wins in a row helped stem the tide of criticism being directed his way, but football fans have short memories and a limp defeat may well have had the same effect as a time machine in transporting him back to the firing line.
The Portuguese coach’s decision to switch to a 3-4-2-1 formation has been the key to his side’s turnaround in form, but Inter were the toughest opponent this new strategy had faced yet.
Roma’s new system stood up to the test, as the team defended well as a unit and carved out some good chances.
Fonseca should feel proud about the display, but would be forgiven for being left furious about the manner in which his side conceded their goals.
Stefan De Vrij’s header from an early corner was unchallenged, raising questions about the set piece marking schemes.
But Leonardo Spinazzola’s error for the late penalty was enough to have the coach tearing his hair out. A routine clearance turned into a slapstick comedy routine, as the wing-back swung at the ball, missed it, and clattered into Victor Moses instead.
There’s little a coach can do to legislate for such chaos. Individual errors are difficult to eradicate, but at least he can sleep easy in the knowledge that his new tactical blueprint stood up well in its biggest test yet.