When Inter and AS Roma emerged from the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza tunnel after the half-time break and Matteo Darmian came on in place of the cautioned Benjamin Pavard, it immediately became very clear how Simone Inzaghi was paying attention to every little detail in order to prevent a tricky game from suddenly spinning out of control.

Throughout the first half, Inter had completely dominated possession, they had hit the crossbar early on through Hakan Calhanoglu and seen their attempts to create more opportunities frustrated by a penalty box constantly packed with Roma players.

Inter’s Lautaro Martinez and Marcus Thuram celebrate. [@Inter]

Inzaghi and Inter learning from past mistakes

The prize at stake was high for an Inter side who needed a win to retake Serie A‘s top spot after being leapfrogged by Juventus 24 hours earlier, and this is why Inzaghi was trying to act like a surgeon, planning every move with precision. In the case of his half-time change, he knew that even a moment of misfortune could have seen Pavard shown a second yellow card and, as a result, his side go down to 10.

While the hosts were clearly the better side on the pitch, Inzaghi knew that very little coule have seen their determination turn to frustration, especially in an increasingly edgy match like that and against a Roma side – a Jose Mourinho Roma side – more than capable of playing up to the nervousness around the fixture.

Instead, unlike what happened against Sassuolo and Bologna, the Nerazzurri players weren’t overwhelmed by the frenzy and their ability to remain calm was perfectly embodied by Marcus Thuram‘s clinical touch that eventually gave the Nerazzurri a late lead and sealed three huge points.

Inzaghi also showed a renewed clarity of mind as he avoided making hasty substitutions while his side were still searching for the opener. His call to keep Federico Dimarco and Thuram on the pitch, for example, proved key in deciding the game in his side’s favour.

The importance of the win cannot be overstated, and Inter‘s performance across the 90 minutes was evidence of growth in maturity that, if maintained, could bear real fruit in the long run.

How Inter avoided pitfalls posed by AS Roma

It was an extremely difficult challenge for any player on the pitch, not only Romelu Lukaku, to hold their nerves in a packed Stadio Giuseppe Meazza where every take-on, foul or touch from the Belgian was welcomed either by a massive roar or jeers.

With a squad littered with injuries and the fatigue of their recent Europa League game taking its toll, it was clear that Roma would try to get an advantage by leveraging the whole situation, in the hope that their opponents would end up being crushed by the tension generated by their own expectant fans.

Instead, the Inter players looked surprisingly calm as they walked back to the changing room for the break despite getting no reward after a dominant first half, and they also kept their cool when things became even more heated in the second. After half time, there were repeated interruptions preventing the hosts from getting into the rhythm the sought in their attacking ventures.

It looked like the Nerazzurri were prepared to have their endurance ability tested, and in the end it proved to be the decisive quality.

Marcus Thuram celebrates for Inter. (@Inter)

While Roma‘s strategic plan was eventually disrupted by Marcus Thuram, the Giallorossi came very close to getting points at the Stadio Meazza. That would have been a significant feat – it also proves how far they could still go by retaining the defensive solidity they showcased recently, especially if the fitness of the likes of Chris Smalling, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Paulo Dybala and Renato Sanches will allow them to play with regularity.

That certainly won’t be enough to make them scudetto candidates but, as outdated as Mourinho‘s football may seem, Roma will pick up points. After all, there was a reason why Massimiliano Allegri‘s Juventus were top of Serie A before Inter‘s win on Sunday night of Matchday 10.