Nainggolan to the rescue as Roma draw with Inter


Milan (AFP)

Belgium midfielder Radja Nainggolan struck six minutes from time as Roma maintained their bid for Champions League football with a 1-1 home draw with Inter Milan that ended their bid for nine consecutive league wins.

Roma's eight-game winning streak has put Luciano Spalletti's men right back in contention for a top three finish as leaders Juventus and Napoli continue their duel for top spot in Serie A.

But Spalletti was forced to think on his feet after Roma, with a five-point lead on both Inter and Fiorentina at the start of the day, failed to conjure a first-half opener and conceded to Ivan Perisic's 53rd minute strike.

The goal sparked Roberto Mancini's visitors into life and Roma finally awoke from their slumber to level in the 84th minute when Nainggolan pounced on Edin Dzeko's mis-hit shot to slam the ball past Samir Handanovic.

Roma remain in third place but are now seven points behind Juventus ahead of their city derby with Torino on Sunday, when Napoli, three points behind the champions in second, host Genoa.

Inter moved one place up to fourth at the expense of Fiorentina, although 'La Viola' will benefit most from Saturday's Stadio Olimpico draw if they win at relegation-haunted Frosinone on Sunday to close the gap on Roma to three points.

Inter's last league win at Roma was in October 2008, and they lived dangerously in the opening minutes when Diego Perotti, playing up front in place of benched Dzeko, was allowed to fire a first-timer just over from Stephan El Shaarawy's cutback.

But a Perisic volley from the left side of the area was only blocked by Alessandro Florenzi, and Roma 'keeper Wojciech Szczesny was soon called into action to smother Adem Ljajic strike.

Perisic was giving Florenzi plenty of food for thought down the left, and the Croatian cut in from the left to curl just over.

At the other end, Mohamed Salah pounced on Miralem Pjanic's long punt to round Handanovic and fire into the net, but he was correctly ruled offside. El Shaarawy and Salah then combined well in the area but Handanovic did well to parry the former's strike.

Spalletti upped the stakes when he replaced Seydou Keita with Dzeko just before the hour, but minutes later the Bosnian flashed just over after being sent through on to Salah's chip.

Dzeko grappled with Joao Miranda to get his head to Florenzi's cross into the box but met stiff resistance from the Brazilian, who was lucky to escape conceding a penalty soon after when Dzeko's header came off his arm.

But when Florenzi gave possession away cheaply to Ljajic during a sloppy effort to play the ball out, the Bosnian ran in to set up Eder, only for the ball to ricochet off the Italy striker.

At the other end Salah held off his marker on the turn but drove straight at Handanovic.

Roma had the edge and and their efforts were repaid when Nainggolan set up Dzeko to his right on the edge of the area.

The Bosnian made only faint contact, instead rolling the ball into Nainggolan's path for the Belgian to smash past the Inter 'keeper.

Mancini battened down the hatches, Felipe Melo replacing attacking midfielder Ljajic and Roma were unlucky in the dying minutes when Salah's ferocious angled drive came off the shoulder of Dzeko yards from goal.