STADIO OLIMPICO (Rome) – After a few stalls at the start of Simone Inzaghi’s reign, Inter have reached top gear and are starting to accelerate towards reclaiming top spot in Serie A.
Their trip to Rome on Saturday couldn’t have been more different than their last visit to the Eternal City. In mid-October, Inzaghi suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of his former employers Lazio.
It was his first, and remains his only, league defeat as Inter coach, and left the Nerazzurri with a job on their hands to catch runaway leaders AC Milan and Napoli.
But their complete dominance against Roma on Saturday showed how far they have come as a team, and left Inzaghi’s side one point off top and with the winter champions crown within reach.
A first-half bombardment led to all three of the visitors’ goals, and they had little reason to expend more energy in the second half against Jose Mourinho’s men, who barely threw a punch.
It was a devastating performance and while much of the post-match attention has been focused on Mourinho’s struggles to get a tune out of his Roma team, Inzaghi deserves credit for the way he has steadily improved his side.
This was Inter’s fourth consecutive league win and extended their unbeaten run to 11 matches in all competitions.
They’ve now scored in 18 consecutive away games in Serie A, matching a record set in 1950/51, while Inzaghi has coped well with the absences of starters like Stefan de Vrij and Matteo Darmian, and coaxed an outstanding run of form out of Hakan Calhanoglu.
The ultimate demonstration of the Turkey midfielder’s current confidence was the manner of his opening goal, which he scored directly from a corner, nutmegging Rui Patricio while he was at it.
Calhanoglu now has four goals and two assists in his last five league games, having set up Edin Dzeko for Inter’s second at the Stadio Olimpico. He needed 28 previous Serie A matches to reach the same goals total.
With Denzel Dumfries starting to find his feet in Darmian’s absence, scoring his first Inter goal in Rome, and Inzaghi able to leave in-form Lautaro Martinez on the bench and still comfortably win a big game, Inter’s strength in depth is setting them apart from the rest during an intense period of fixtures.
CAPITAL CHAOS FOR JOSE MOURINHO’S ROMA
The same cannot be said of Roma. Mourinho has made his feelings about the lack of options in his squad perfectly clear during his first few months in the job.
Yesterday he was without the suspended Tammy Abraham and Rick Karsdorp, and lacked injured captain Lorenzo Pellegrini and winger Stephan El Shaarawy.
But the chasm in quality between the two sides on Saturday was alarming, and can’t be blamed purely on those absences.
Mourinho set his side up in a 5-3-2 formation and didn’t make any alterations until the introduction of 19-year-old midfielder Edoardo Bove after 61 minutes. They finished the night with 34 percent possession and one shot on target.
Roma’s supporters deserve great credit for continuing to loudly voice their support until the final whistle, when some boos were then directed at the players.
Mourinho complained afterwards of having “practically nothing” in attack, but continues to overlook Borja Mayoral, who scored 10 Serie A goals last season and 17 in all competitions.
The Spaniard may not be the long-term answer to the Giallorossi’s problems but, at this point, he surely deserves more than the 26 minutes of league football he has so far been afforded.
The outlook isn’t pretty for Roma, who lost their seventh match of the season after 16 games, their worst record since 2008/09.
La Gazzetta dello Sport highlighted on Sunday that Mourinho’s Roma are worse off now than they were at this stage last season under Paulo Fonseca.
They have eight fewer points, two fewer wins, four more defeats and have scored 11 fewer goals than at this stage last season. The only improvement has been conceding five fewer goals than Fonseca’s side.
Roma are also worse off on all those counts from Fonseca’s first season in 2019/20.
Improvement may come over time, but the demanding Roman support are unlikely to stand for many more nights like Saturday, where they were completely outclassed.
Fonseca’s infamous issues in the big games have continued under Mourinho too; they have four defeats and one draw against fellow ‘big seven’ sides this season, with Atalanta still to come in two weeks’ time.
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