MILAN - Inter take a five-point lead over second-placed Juventus into the third international break of the season as José Mourinho's team followed up their midweek win in Kiev with a gritty 1-1 draw against Roma.
Mirko Vucinic made his third chance count after two misses to give the Giallorossi an early lead, Samuel Eto'o replying with his sixth Serie A goal shortly after the break.
Mourinho (now unbeaten in 150 domestic league and cup fixtures at home) rested Sneijder and Cambiasso for Sunday night's clash, which kicked off after a video to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Angelo Moratti. The Inter coach moved Zanetti to left-back and starting Muntari, Vieira and Thiago Motta behind Stankovic in midfield.
Eto'o and Milito continued up front but it was Roma number nine Vucinic who had the early chances. He was intercepted by Lucio for his first and sent his second way over, but the Montenegrin got his aim right with chance three, towering above Lucio to meet Motta's cross from the right and sending his looping header over Julio Cesar.
Roma had their keeper Julio Sergio to thank for keeping a clean sheet until half time. The Brazilian made a vital block from Milito after a brilliant through ball by Muntari. He showed his awareness again minutes later, beating Stankovic to a through ball before a double error by Mexes went unpunished.
Mexes had been struggling with a knee knock but the French defender played on with the captain's armband after Roma lost De Rossi in the 34th minute after injuring his cheekbone in a duel with Vieira.
Roma were denied the space to counter and Milito produced another chance before half time, turning Andreolli before seeing his deflected shot go behind.
All the ingredients were there for a repeat of Kiev. Roma had been sitting on their lead, their only chances coming from set pieces and Riise narrowly missed before the break with a low deflected free kick. Mourinho made two changes at the start of the second half, bringing on Balotelli and Sneijder for Muntari and Vieira to give his team a more attacking edge.
Inter's equaliser came at just the right time. Three minutes in, Thiago Motta pounced on a loose ball after Maicon's cross and played into the path of Eto'o who swivelled and arrowed his precise shot past Julio Sergio.
Both teams had plenty of chances to win the game. Menez forced a fisted block from Julio Cesar, who later kept out an effort from Faty. But at 1-1, the only team to hit the back of the net was Inter, Milito crashing home after latching on to Sneijder's headed pass, only for the flag to go up for offside.
Inter 1-1 Roma (HT: 0-1)
Scorers: Vucinic 13, Eto'o 48.
Inter: 12 Julio Cesar; 13 Maicon, 25 Samuel, 6 Lucio, 4 Zanetti; 11 Muntari (45 Balotelli 46), 14 Vieira (10 Sneijder 46), 8 Thiago Motta (19 Cambiasso 64); 5 Stankovic; 22 Milito, 9 Eto'o.
Subs not used: 1 Toldo, 2 Cordoba, 26 Chivu, 30 Mancini.
Coach: José Mourinho.
Roma: 27 Julio Sergio; 13 Motta, 3 Andreolli, 5 Mexes (22 Tonetto 75), 17 Riise; 33 Brighi, 7 Pizarro, 20 Perrotta; 16 De Rossi (14 Faty 34); 9 Vucinic (89 Okaka 68), 94 Menez.
Subs not used: 1 Lobont, 19 Baptista, 21 Guberti, 77 Cassetti.
Coach: Claudio Ranieri.
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Florence).
Booked: Muntari 39, Menez 45+1, Thiago Motta 54, Stankovic 62, Pizarro 78.