Ahh… Lazio-Roma. Traditionally called “Stracittadina” (or conventionally “Derby della Capitale“), these derbies are always full of excitement: Laziali and Romanisti go crazy for them, because on top of providing plenty of entertainment (to neutral watchers as well), Stadio Olimpico bragging rights for the entire season are at stake. Last night’s derby however, was particularly important to the Giallorossi because it was meant to maintain Roma’s 5-match unbeaten streak (since the Juventus loss) and keep them close to Inter for the Scudetto race, something which (unlike what Totti may think) is still important to Roma supporters.
Before the match, there was a 24-point difference in the Serie A standings between Lazio and Roma: the teams who stepped onto the Stadio Olimpico of Rome tonight can be said to have very different season objectives at the moment. For the Giallorossi, with Champions League qualification almost guaranteed, the Scudetto race is still very much alive despite the 6-point differential between them and league leaders Inter. For Lazio however, the possibility of remaining out of Europe next season very much a reality, the Biancocelesti are currently left struggling even for a tiny UEFA Cup spot. In derbies however, everyone knows that league standings don’t mean squat and indeed, the victor tonight was not the strongest team on paper.
Tactically, Lazio manager Delio Rossi decided to field a 3-man attacking formation tonight, with Rolando Bianchi in the center supported by Tommaso Rocchi and Goran Pandev on the sides. As for Roma, Spalletti opted once again for the speed of Cicinho and Marco Cassetti in the backline, while replacing Amantino Mançini with Mirko Vucinic as one of the playmakers.
Lazio began the match at full swing, immediately occupying the space on the wings and creating more of it with constant overlaps from the backline. The first chance of the match was to the favor of the Biancocelesti: minute 7, an Aleksandar Kolarov free-kick almost surprised Doni, forcing the Brazilian keeper to tip a sneaky ball onto the crossbar. The ball rebounded to Pandev who sent it back across for Bianchi, but the ex-City striker missed it by a hairbreadth. Spalletti had his first shiver of the night.
Shivers however turned into jumps of jubilation, when at the half-hour mark Roma went ahead. With Vucinic trying to pierce through the Lazio defense, the ball was deflected shortly inside the box and it seemed as if Valon Behrami would have no trouble whatsoever in neutralizing the danger. The Swiss midfielder however rushed his clearance, not seeing Rodrigo Taddei in front of him: the ball hit the Roma winger on the shoulder, rebounding out of Ballotta’s reach straight into the bottom-left corner of the goal. 1-0 Roma in rather comical fashion, but the Giallorossi would take it.
The ‘visitors’ (for administrative purposes) lead would last less than 15 minutes however, because Lazio really turned on the style just before the break, and provided an equalizer in true Calcio-champagne fahion: all in one-touch combinations, Rocchi got through on the left wing, sent in a low cross for Kolarov inside the box. Doni got a hand to it, but could not deflect it further away than Goran Pandev onto the second post, and the Macedonian international simply had to apply the finish with an open net. 1-1 at the break.
In the second half, news of the Inter Milan draw vs. Genoa had gotten to the Stadio Olimpico (given the Lazio-Roma match had started 45 minutes later, for reasons still obscure to me), something which revitalized the motivations of Francesco Totti & friends. Not even a minute had passed when a good set-up by the Roma captain put Simone Perrotta in shooting position, but the midfielder’s effort was wide of the mark. Lazio replied with Pandev (short-range shot wide) before Totti eventually found the way of the goal in minute 51, but saw his tally (rightfully) called off for offside.
In minute 55, Kolarov found Doni’s woodwork once again as his 26m-set piece effort beat the Roma wall but not the post. Just a minute later however, Lazio would take the lead: on a Kolarov (him again!) cross from the left wing, Bianchi and Juan went to challenge the ball, resulting in both players tumbling to the ground. Replays were rather unclear on the episode, but it seemed as if the Roma center-back had pulled the Lazio striker down, and for referee Emidio Morganti that was enough to indicate the 12-yard spot. Tommaso Rocchi stepped up to take the spot-shot, and with what virtually was one of the worst penalty kicks I’ve seen in my entire life (no really, it was almost as if he intentionally tried to miss it), put his team ahead. 2-1 Lazio.
There was really no time to catch your breath in this match hover, because 4 minutes later Roma were level once again. A high ball forward was masterfully controlled by Vucinic, setting up Totti, then Simone Perrotta for on-run finish from 16 yards: ball into the bottom-right corner, out of Ballotta’s reach. 2-2, and true spectacle at the Olimpico.
10 minutes from the end, Totti had the opportunity to clinch the match running off towards the Lazio box on a counter, but instead of serving it to Vucinic the Roma captain decided to go for the dribble, prompting Ledesma to intercept and a good Roma chance to vanish. A few minutes later, Behrami’s diagonal shot was wide and it seemed as if this match would end on a tied scoreline, satisfying neither team really and keeping Inter’s lead on Roma unchanged.
Until the 93rd minute, when this happened: controlling the ball on the right wing, Pandev managed to invent a splendid assist for Stefano Mauri on the left, who then immediately counter-crossed it to the opposite end. Both Doni and Juan simply stood to watch as the ball crossed the Roma box, eventually landing to Valon Behrami about 3 meters from the goal line, ready to poke the ball into the net. An enormous goal for the Swiss international, which sent the entire Biancocelesti supporters section into rapture. 3-2 Lazio and game over.
On top of the disappointment for losing the derby, Roma now see Inter Milan’s lead increase to 7 points. Such a shame, the week had started off so well with the win over AC Milan… A nice note of the evening hover: before the match started, the entire Olimpico stadium (Biancocelesti and Giallorossi alike) paid tribute to Gabriele Sandri, remembering the Lazio supporter who tragically died while travelling to an away game in November 2007.
After this loss, Roma’s distance to first-ranked Inter Milan is now 7 points. With 9 matches left in the league, have Roma’s hopes for a fourth Serie A title vanished? Tell us what you think in the comments section.
|GOALSCORERS: 30′ Taddei (R), 44′ Pandev (L), 58′ pen. Rocchi (L), 61′ Perrotta (R), 92′ Behrami (L)|
|LAZIO (4-3-3): Ballotta — De Silvestri (66′ Mutarelli), Siviglia, Cribari, Kolarov — Dabo (73′ Mudingayi), Ledesma, Behrami — Pandev, Bianchi, (72′ Mauri), Rocchi (bench: Muslera, Rozehnal, Meghni, Tare). Coach: D.Rossi|
|ROMA (4-2-3-1): Doni — Cicinho, Mexès, Juan, Cassetti (88′ Panucci) — De Rossi, Aquilani — Taddei (66′ Giuly), Perrotta, Vucinic (83′ Mancini) — Totti (bench: Curci, Ferrari, Brighi, Pizarro, Mancini). Coach: Spalletti|
Marco Pantanella features on the Editing team of Soccerlens and is the Author & Chief Editor of the mCalcio blog.