Roma streak ends but positives for Spalletti after Nainggolan leveller
Roma's winning streak finally came to an end after eight matches on Saturday, as Luciano Spalletti's side came from behind to draw 1-1 with Inter Milan, but the coach will be happy with the fight his players showed in coming back to level the match.
Roma were far from their vibrant best in the Stadio Olimpico but showed grit after Ivan Perisic gave Inter a shock 57th minute lead, and the point makes sure they're still the favourites to keep hold of third place and Champions League qualification.
Spalletti had to wait until six minutes from time for Radja Nainggolan's drilled equaliser, which gave Roma the point both sides deserved from an intense match that reminded fans of the title-deciding clashes that Inter and Spalletti and Inter boss Roberto Mancini played out a decade ago in the same roles.
On another day they could have all three points, with Mohamed Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy both forcing smart saves from Samir Handanovic either side of half time and Edin Dzeko blazing over under no pressure just seconds after having a glancing header pushed away.
After a rapid first 20 minutes from Roma, Inter got a handle on the occasion and looked comfortable against Serie A's form team. While their opener was against the run of play, Roma had looked susceptible to a counter and Mancini had his side expertly pick out the gaps left by the home side's marauding full-backs.
The draw keeps Roma five points ahead of Inter, who move above Fiorentina into fourth, and with the Viola away at a Frosinone side scrambling to save themselves from the drop on Sunday, a point is a perfectly decent result for both sides.
Any lingering chat about Spalletti's team making a late run at the Scudetto will end unless Juventus fail to win at Torino and extend their seven-point lead on the Giallorossi, while Napoli will at the very minimum tighten their grip on second place -- and automatic qualification for the Champions League -- if they beat Genoa.
Given the state Spalletti found Roma in when he arrived in January, third place would nonetheless do very nicely indeed.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Wojciech Szczesny, 6 -- Should have done better with Perisic's opener, which seemed to blast through his left wrist like a cannonball.
DF Alessandro Florenzi, 6 -- Was caught way too far up the field for the Inter goal but that's the risk Spalletti runs by pushing his full-backs so high.
DF Kostas Manolas, 7 -- It's no surprise that Chelsea reportedly made a £26 million bid for the centre-back, and even less so that Roma rejected the Premier League side's offer. He is the rock on which Roma's much-improved defence is built.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 6 -- Looked uncertain about how to deal with Inter's floating front four all night but mostly kept in line with Manolas.
DF Lucas Digne, 6 -- Would have been unlucky to have ended up on the losing side, as he was up and down the left flank all night. Still needs to work on his crossing.
MF Miralem Pjanic, 7 -- Roma's best performer in midfield and was unlucky that Salah strayed offside for his exquisite long pass 10 minutes before the break.
MF Seydou Keita, 5 -- Seemed to be off the pace from the start and was left skating on eggshells after getting himself in the book in the 22nd minute for a stupid foul on Jonathan Biabiany.
MF Radja Nainggolan, 6 -- Not the Belgian's best night but saved a point for his team with an excellent finish.
FW Stephan El Shaarway, 6 -- The Italian was as full of running as ever but failed to provide much of threat on the left, even if Handanovic did very well to push out his 40th minute volley.
FW Diego Perotti, 5 -- Spalletti opted for Perotti as a False No.9 instead of sticking with Dzeko as lone front man and it backfired, as the Argentine struggled with Inter's compact and physical defending.
FW Mohamed Salah, 7 -- The Egyptian was the best of Roma's underperforming attack, constantly threatening down the right.
FW Edin Dzeko, 6 -- Immediately offered an option going forward after coming on for Keita in the 57th minute and scuffed an assist for Nainggolan's leveller but skied Roma's best chance of the game under absolutely no pressure.
DF Emerson, N/R -- Took the place of Digne at left-back nine minutes before the end and acquitted himself adequately.
MF Daniele De Rossi, N/R -- Thrown on in the final seconds as Spalletti pushed for a late winner, but had no time to make his physical presence count.
Terry Daley is based in Rome and has covered Italian football for both Reuters and AFP. He has written for Vice Sports and Mirror Football. Twitter: @T_Daley