01.03.09 / 22:49
MILAN - Inter move seven points clear of second-placed Juventus as José Mourinho's side held Roma 3-3 in a thrilling night of Serie A football at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza.
Daniele De Rossi and John Arne Riise did the first-half damage as Roma took a commanding 2-0 lead into the break but Inter reduced the gap minutes into the second half through Mario Balotelli.
Matteo Brighi restored Roma's two-goal advantage but it was short-lived as Balotelli converted a penalty before Hernan Crespo came off the bench to head home a deserved equaliser.
Mourinho made four changes to the team that drew 0-0 with Man United last Tuesday, bringing in Cordoba and Burdisso for Rivas and Chivu in the centre of defence, Maxwell for Muntari in midfield, and Balotelli for Ibrahimovic up front.
Roma boss Spalletti also shuffled his pack after the midweek defeat to Arsenal. Panucci stepped in for Loria at centre back, with Pizarro in a holding role alongside De Rossi and Vucinic starting in attack with Baptista after Totti failed a late fitness test.
De Rossi fired a warning sign in the second minute when his curling free kick forced a tipped save from Julio Cesar, with Baptista and Brighi also getting in on the act as Roma continued their promising start. Inter's first real chance fell to Maxwell who fired wide after going through on goal after a one-two with Santon.
Roma edged in front when De Rossi outclimbed Zanetti in the box and sent his flicked header from Motta's right-wing cross into the top corner. Riise then stunned the home fans to give his team a 2-0 lead inside the half hour, slotting past Julio Cesar from the tightest of angles after shrugging off a challenge from Maicon.
Inter had Burdisso to thank for stopping Roma from taking a three-goal lead into break. Vucinic had just Julio Cesar to beat after sidestepping Cordoba in the box but the Argentine defender saved the day with a brilliant lunging tackle.
Mourinho had Figo and Vieira warming up before half time and he brought the veteran midfielders on for Maxwell and Burdisso at the start of the second period, with Cambiasso slotting in at the centre of defence.
The Nerazzurri, reminiscent of their dramatic comeback against Roma in the 2006 Italian Super Cup, poured forward and grabbed a lifeline in the 50th minute when Adriano picked out Balotelli who sidefooted beyond Doni.
Seven minutes later Brighi fired past Julio Cesar from the edge of the area but Inter hit back again when Balotelli sent Doni the wrong way from the penalty spot after being brought down by De Rossi.
Mourinho threw Crespo into the fray and the Argentine brought the house down less than two minutes later, rising in the area to send his flicked header from Figo's right-wing cross in off the post.
Julio Cesar kept Roma at bay in the final stages, superbly tipping over Riise's rising drive from a free kick and denying Menez in added time after De Rossi squandered a golden chance when he dragged wide from an inviting position.
Inter 3-3 Roma (HT: 0-2)
Scorers: De Rossi 23, Riise 29, Balotelli 50, (pen) 63, Brighi 57, Crespo 79.
Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 2 Cordoba, 16 Burdisso (14 Vieira 46), 39 Santon; 4 Zanetti, 19 Cambiasso, 6 Maxwell (7 Figo 46); 5 Stankovic (18 Crespo 77); 10 Adriano, 45 Balotelli.
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 8 Ibrahimovic, 23 Materazzi, 33 Mancini.
Coach: José Mourinho.
Roma: 32 Doni; 13 Motta, 5 Mexes, 2 Panucci, 17 Riise; 16 De Rossi, 7 Pizarro; 11 Taddei, 33 Brighi, 9 Vucinic (24 Menez 76); 19 Baptista.
Subs not used: 25 Artur, 3 Cicinho, 14 Filipe, 21 Diamoutene, 23 Montella, 40 Malomo.
Coach: Luciano Spalletti.
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (Bologna).
Booked: Zanetti 37, Pizarro 45+1, De Rossi 68, Stankovic 68, Riise 77, Vieira 83.