Inter threaten to throw away the scudetto
Having won the previous two championships, you wouldn’t have expected Inter Milan to succumb to nerves in this season’s Italian title race.
Roberto Mancini’s side are doing their very best to throw the scudetto away. In February they were 11 points clear of AS Roma but after Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Siena the gap is down to a point with one game to play.
Two weekends ago Inter could have wrapped up the championship against AC Milan. A 2-1 defeat by their city rivals was a nuisance, but Mancini said he always thought they’d be crowned against Siena.
Not so. Siena, who had nothing to play for, fought back from a goal down twice while Marco Materazzi then missed a penalty having argued with Julio Cruz about who should take it.
Inter were so desperate to grab a winner that team mates were getting in the way of each others shots and they nearly conceded at the other end. A group of angry fans waited for the team coach after the match and shouted “Get to work” at the stunned players.
But aren’t the supporters being a little hard on Inter? A closer analysis shows that this is the first proper title race this group of players have been in. Everyone remembers when Inter lost the title in 2002, but the team has changed quite a bit since then.
In 2006 Inter finished third and were awarded the scudetto in a courtroom when table toppers Juventus were demoted for match-fixing and Milan had points deducted.
Last season, Inter had no real challengers at all with Juve in Serie B, Milan docked points and AS Roma not quite title material.
This term, however, Roma have racked up more points and wins than ever before, even with Francesco Totti injured for much of the season.
Suddenly this Inter side are under pressure and it’s all new to them. Will they snap or just stumble over the line?
Mark Meadows, Milan
PHOTO: Marco Materazzi leaves the pitch at the end of Inter’s 2-2 Serie A draw with Siena, May 11. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini