x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Tears and cheers for Crespo

As if in answer to the Italian goal drought in the last round of the Champions League, Inter Milan and Roma shared six goals on Sunday night.

Crespo celebrates his equalising goal.
Crespo celebrates his equalising goal.

As if in answer to the Italian goal drought in the last round of the Champions League, Inter Milan and Roma shared six goals on Sunday night. Twice Inter had fallen two goals behind, and twice they came back. The 3-3 draw had a little of everything, a minor epic, and it even had live television tears at the end as Hernan Crespo was overcome by emotion as he spoke about the headed goal that earned Inter their point, and kept them seven ahead of Juventus in the table.

Crespo had become frustrated, he said, by the endless waiting for a place in Jose Mourinho's starting XI. He dedicated the goal not to his head coach but to his daughters, who had put up with a gloomy father. Inter it seems, is not a place of happy reserve players. Luis Figo has been complaining in the newspapers about his lack of time on the field. As for Mario Ballotelli, the gifted but wayward teenager, he has sulked over being marginalised for disciplinary reasons for parts of the campaign.

Against Roma at the San Siro, they all made their points. Ballotelli's excellent finish provided Inter's first goal, responding to Daniele de Rossi's fine header and John Arne Riise's run and sharply angled shot that established a 2-0 lead for the visitors after half an hour. Just after half-time Matteo Brighi drove home to make it 3-1 to Roma. Again Ballotelli responded, snaking past challenges from the outside left position until he tumbled over under renewed pressure from De Rossi.

Once the penalty had been awarded, Ballotelli looked at Adriano for a signal as to who should take it. The Brazilian pointed at the junior man. Ballotelli, pausing in his run up, converted coolly. Inter had 27 minutes left to preserve Mourinho's amazing record of having not lost a home match in the Portuguese, English or Italian leagues for 111 matches. Crespo, introduced 13 minutes from full-time, needed two minutes to ensure the run stayed intact. The grumpy Figo, another substitute, crossed and Crespo nodded in.

The striker's celebrations were vigorous, to say the least. Genoa and Fiorentina, immediately above the club from the capital, both drew, so Roma's sloppiness has not cost them a place. They stay sixth, and will be pleased to see third-placed AC Milan's poor sequence continue. An Antonio Cassano goal put Sampdoria 1-0 up against the Rossoneri, and Gianpaolo Pazzini added another goal just after half-time. Alexandre Pato's late strike was mere consolation.

Milan need a tonic urgently, and the return of the Brazilian playmaker Kaka to fitness cannot arrive soon enough. ihawkey@thenational.ae