Roma Implode to Give Inter The Coppa Italia As Totti Sees Red
Inter 1-0 Roma
Diego Milito's splendid first half goal was enough to keep Inter on track for an historic treble in a niggly Coppa Italia final in Rome that was blighted by a number of nasty fouls, including a thoroughly deserved red card for frustrated Roma idol Francesco Totti.
The build up to the Coppa Italia final was overshadowed by the controversy caused at the weekend by Roma's city rivals Lazio when the biancocelesti fans actually turned on their own team and cheered Inter's goals as it all but ensured the scudetto would remain in Milan rather than arrive in the hands of Totti and co.
These two clubs have built up a fierce rivarly in recent seasons, almost appearing in the Coppa Italia final by right over the past few seasons, as well as pushing each other in the league. Ranieri's arrival at Roma also added some spice to the rivalry given his and Mourinho's chequered past.
Perhaps it should have been no surprise then that as soon as the ref blew the whistle for kick off, the players were going for each other. In the very first minute Burdisso saw yellow for a tackle on Sneijder that saw the Dutchman having to be subbed off for Balotelli. Unfortunately, it was a sign of things to come.
Mourinho's men, as well as having shown themselves to be a tough, gritty outfit, are also very good at winding the opposition up - and when Roma are the opposing team, it doesn't take much for them to lose their cool. As the first half progressed, more tough challenges were put in, disrupting the flow of the game. Philippe Mexes seemed to decide that he was going to have a piece of Materazzi, taking swipes at him at set pieces at either end of the pitch, each incident only minutes apart.
Despite the fouls, there was also some good football being played, particularly in the opening period, and it culminated for Inter in a great goal from Diego Milito in the 39th minute. A great run from just inside Roma's half saw him squeeze past three Roma players on the edge of their box and fire the ball past a helpless Julio Sergio.
By that stage, Inter were on top, and Ranieri had to change things at half time. He had gambled by leaving Totti on the bench, but the Roma bandiera was brought on at the start of the second half for Pizarro, while Motta came on for Burdisso.
Totti nearly helped make an early breakthrough, a long range blast only partially saved by Julio Cesar, but Juan could only head over the empty goal from six yards. It was to be Roma's best chance, and Totti faded from the game very quickly - worringly so for Marcello Lippi if he is seriously considering taking him to the World Cup.
As the game wore on, Roma grew more frustrated, and it was only a matter of time before a red card was shown. That it was shown to Totti could perhaps be seen as a surprise; the Roma man's temper seemed to have calmed in recent years, but his petulance and frustration was there for all to see when Balotelli skipped past him, Perrotta and Motta, causing Totti to lash out in desperation at the youngster's legs. It was perhaps a defining moment in Italian football; Totti was once the star and the young hope, but here he was taking out Italy's brightest young player because his old legs couldn't catch him fairly.
Totti didn't try to argue when ref Rizzoli produced a straight red card, instead walking off the pitch looking thoroughly annoyed - most likely with himself. He started the season brightly but since his recent return from injury he has never quite recaptured his old form - and questions have to be asked now if he ever will. If tonight's performance is anything to go by, Lippi could do worse than rethinking whether a Montolivo or Rossi might offer more in South Africa.
After Totti's red card, the game was over as a contest, and it was simply a matter of waiting and seeing if another Roma player might lose their head. None did - though at the final whistle a Roma fan ran on the pitch to try and punch Cambiasso. Fortunately he was stopped, and his act of madness seemed to help disspell the possibility of a fight between players at the final whistle.
Some would say it was a very typical Mourinho victory, just doing enough and winding the opposition up whilst they were at it, but Inter fans and players won't care - nor should they. They now stand that bit closer to an amazing treble this season. What price a 1-0 win over Bayern in two weeks' time?
Inter (4-3-1-2): Julio Cesar; Chivu, Materazzi, Cordoba (38 mins Samuel), Maicon; Zanetti, Cambiasso, Thiago Motta; Sneijder (4 mins Balotelli, 92 mins Muntari); Milito, Eto'o (1 Toldo, 5 Stankovic, 17 Mariga, 25 Samuel, 27 Pandev)
Roma (4-2-3-1): Julio Sergio; Burdisso (46 mins Motta), Mexes, Juan, Riise; De Rossi, Pizarro (46 mins Totti); Taddei, Perrotta, Vucinic; Toni (56 mins Menez) (1 Lobont, 22 Tonetto, 33 Brighi, 19 Baptista)
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