Away Days: AS Roma v Lazio6 min read
Another spectacle in Serie A took place over the weekend, with Derby della Capitale being played at the Stadio Olympico.
Before this game had been played, both Roma and Lazio had a game-in-hand on their rivals. Eusebio Di Francesco’s Roma had 27 points, while Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio were on 28. It was a derby that mattered, even more so than in usual years.
The atmosphere was raucous walking into the stadium, the tension unbearable. The noise emanating from both sets of supporters was a moment that will not be forgotten any time soon. As you walk down Ponte Duca D’Aosta, across River Tiber, the enigmatic stadium becomes apparent. With 20 minutes until kick off, the songs of love for their team were echoing around the arena, bouncing off the walls.
In the opening 20 minutes, it was frantic. Neither team could really dominate possession and you could tell that the players understood the importance of this 90 minutes. It was their most important game of the season to date, and one neither wanted to lose – especially in front of this volatile crowd.
Tensions were running high, but the Giallorossi grew in confidence, allowing Radja Nainggolan to get on the ball as much as possible. The Belgian was sensational as Roma’s driving force, feeding the play into the wide areas to Stephan El Shaarawy and Diego Perrotti, who occupied the wings.
There were a few chances for both teams, with Lazio’s mainly coming through the use of their impressive counter-attack. Ciro Immobile was always on the last Roma defenders’ shoulder, as he looked to get in-behind and stretch di Francesco’s team. It had worked a few times, but Federico Fazio stood strong and nearly always recovered. The former Spurs man has put his past behind him and has found his best form while playing with Roma.
Roma came out of the blocks firing in the second half. You could tell they wanted this, and there was no messing around. Within just four minutes, they were awarded a rightful penalty after Aleksandar Kolarov made a darting run into the penalty area. Argentinean Perotti walked up to the ball with swagger and full conviction in his own ability and dispatched it cooly, sending the Curva Sud – where Roma’s ultras are placed – ballistic. It was pandemonium inside Stadio Olimpico with the noise reverberating around the walls.
Lazio switched off temporarily and were leaking chance after chance. And just two minutes later, Perotti was at it again when he dispossessed Bastos, the Biancocelesti defender who gave away the penalty, and fed the ball across the surface to the oncoming Nainggolan. Before he had even hit it, there was a sense of knowledge shared across the Roma fans. They knew where it was going. Nainggolan knew where it was going. The only player who didn’t know, was Lazio goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha.
Pandemonium part II. Yet, somehow, it was even louder this time. The Curva Sud was bouncing from top to bottom, a truly magnificent sight to see. The game was all-but won as Lazio looked deflated after conceding two in two minutes.
To their credit, Inzaghi’s men grew into the match as Roma sat back, deeper, in their shape, but they could only find a consolation goal from an Immobile penalty. They kept pressing, hoping for something to go their way, but Di Francesco’s team held on and claimed the deserved three points in this season’s first Derby della Capitale.
Lazio have done incredibly well so far this season, but a title race was always going to be one step too far. It is not over, yet, but their main objective will be trying to secure Champions League qualification. If they can do that, it will be a magnificent year for them.
With Juventus losing to Sampdoria in dramatic fashion, Roma are now only one point behind the Bianconeri with a game-in-hand. If they win that, they move into second, only two points from league leaders Napoli. The race for the Scudetto is well and truly on!