This Saturday sees two familiar adversaries come face-to-face at the Stadio Olimpico, where Luciano Spalletti’s Roma host Roberto Mancini’s Inter. The two returning coaches are enjoying promising resurgences in their respective second spells at their two clubs, and the match represents a key battle in the race for third place. It will also bring back memories from a decade ago, when the two coaches were first locking horns in their current colours. In 2005, a tumultuous encounter at the San Siro saw Roma come away with a 3-2 victory – a scoreline that tells only a fraction of the game’s story.
Spalletti’s men started the match in perfect fashion when another current Serie A coach, Sampdoria boss Vincenzo Montella, put Roma ahead by touching home Rodrigo Taddei’s cross. The Giallorossi came within inches of immediately doubling that lead, as a shot from the Brazilian Mancini (not to be confused with the aforementioned Italian) was touched onto the post by Francesco Toldo. An outstretched Cristiano Zanetti, mistakenly identified by the commentator in the video below as Marco Materazzi, then inconceivably denied Montella a tap-in from the rebound with a despairing block.
In a game teeming with moments of inspiration, it was a Serie A icon who provided its most dazzling touch of skill to eventually extend Roma’s advantage. Shortly after Inter’s Julio Cruz had nodded Alvaro Recoba’s cross onto the bar, Totti took the ball from within his own half, danced through the Inter midfield and cut in from the left to float a sumptuous chip over Toldo’s head and into the net. An astounded San Siro briefly put aside its allegiances in standing to applaud the quality of the masterfully executed ‘Cucchiaio’ it had witnessed.
Things were to get even worse for Mancini’s team shortly after half time, as a soft penalty was given against Materazzi’s ill-advised lunge towards Montella. Totti duly converted to complete his brace and make it 3-0, all but sewing up the result and putting Inter in danger of a trouncing in front of their home supporters.
Hope was to emerge, though, in the form of a fondly-remembered Nerrazzurri colossus. Left out of the starting eleven due to injury, the talismanic Adriano was brought off the bench and made an instant impact with a goal very much of the calibre of Totti’s deft chip. The definition of postage-stamp, ‘L’Imperatore’s’ 30-yard free kick glanced off the angle of post and bar before settling in the back of the net. The Brazilian then pounced as Roma goalkeeper Doni spilled a regulation high catch to reduce the deficit to a single goal, and put his team on course for an unlikely point.
Despite their efforts, however, the game was not to end with a late equaliser for the home side. Instead, a heated fracas between Totti and Argentinean midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron brought proceedings to a hostile conclusion. After a seemingly innocuous foul, the two angrily exchanged words and clashed foreheads before Veron raised a hand. Totti dramatically fell to the turf, succeeding in producing a red card for his opponent but only at the expense of one for himself as well. The two continued to scrap as they left the field of play in what was a suitably fiery ending to an action-packed encounter.
Watch highlights of this classic encounter: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx1P3J-ZK9k
Follow Tom Guerriero-Davies on Twitter: @TomGDella