As with all of the major leagues around Europe this season title races are going right down to the wire. Perhaps the most fascinating one is taking place in Italy where Inter Milan are vying to win their fifth Scudetto in a row, but coming up in the rear view mirror is Claudio Ranieri’s Roma.
The Giallorossi’s journey is of phoenix like quality, two straight defeats at the start of the season saw Luciano Spalletti resign. After musings the Sensi family who own the club weren’t willing to back the club with more money to bring in new players fans were left frustrated.
Claudio Ranieri soon took over and spoke about “pragmatism” when he took charge in September, however not even he would have thought that Roma would be challenging for the Scudetto come the business end of the season.
This weekend saw the two contenders come head to head – Roma vs. Inter and Ranieri vs. Mourinho.
There is no love lost between these two who drew their battle lines a couple of years ago when Mourinho questioned Ranieri’s age – “He’s old and he hasn’t won anything.” He has won a Supercup and another small trophy and he is too old to change his mentality.”
Going into the game the Giallorossi were four points behind Inter after a 2-0 win mid-week over Bologna, which was helped by the fact Milan, Roma’s nearest rivals Milan, fell to a 1-0 defeat away to Parma.
The Stadio Olympico was the venue for the two sides to showcase their title credentials and it was the home side that got off to the better start. Daniele De Rossi poked the ball home after 17 minutes – a shocking error from Julio Cesar who let the ball slip from his grasp.
Inter were unlucky not to draw level before half-time Samuel and Milito both hitting the crossbar. The Nerazurri did manage to find an equaliser which came in the 66th minute, but it was marred with controversy – Goran Pandev was clearly offside in the build-up to the goal, which both the ref and his linesman failed to spot, Diego Milito knocked the ball in from close distance.
Roma managed to find a winner just six minutes later, Luca Toni sending the Stadio Olympico into raptures as, which prompted Ranieri to say the title race is back on.
Speaking after the game he said: “We have reopened the title race, now it will be a test of nerves. For five months we have chased and sacrificed ourselves to the cause; now we have beaten a stratospheric team who deserve our compliments”
Despite the fact Inter are still top of Serie A by a point at the moment, the advantage lies with Roma who would win the league on the head to head count if it comes down to that. They are now unbeaten in 21 game which is three short of the club record held in 2001-02 season under Fabio Capello.
Inter paid the price for high tensions during the game – seven yellow cards were dispatched and the Nerazzurri will be without Maicon, Zanetti, Lucio and Eto’o who will miss Inter’s next game to Bologna.
Roma have made up 13 points on Inter since the sides last met in November, they are now the form team of the Serie A and could well over take Mourinho’s side.
The title however, is still Inter’s to lose.