Remarkable: a Nedved lookalike played RB for Lazio while there was no single Roman (or even Italian for that matter) in the lineup for AS Roma. Florenzi was on the bench, Dani in the stands and our dear Francesco still struggling with injury. A good thing or a bad thing? History showed us it might be wise to rest Romans in such games. On paper it was a 4-2-3-1 but Falque dropped back in midfield to help out Radja and Vainqueur.
From minute 1 both teams immediately opened the throttle as it went up and down at a high pace. The Giallorossi were awarded a penalty very early in the game. Two facts: 1) yes, it was a foul but 2) it was outside of the box as well. To be fair (and I’m putting my Roman goggles off now), it was very hard to see for the referee so it could’ve gone either way, free kick or rigore. It was a matter of centimetres (inches for the Americans in Church). Roma and Lazio both hit the woodwork afterwards (Anderson and Radja) but Roma easily won on points after the first half.
They were the most dangerous side in the first 45 minutes and had one great chance to make it 2-0 when Yao passed to Dzeko inside Lazio’s box but the tall Bosnian missed right in front of the goal. Honestly, it was harder to miss than not to miss. That other Bosnian, Miralem Pjanic, was sorely missed when Roma received a free kick just ouside the penalty area: Digne didn’t even make it past the wall.
Overall, we witnessed a very fierce derby and some decent displays from Roma players. There was nervosity and a lot of calls for stupid fouls but that’s just typical in a derby. Like I said, life and death. It was hugely important to keep that slim advantage until HT and Rudi’s boys did just that. Roma were in a comfortable position and could opt for the counterattack with Salah and Gervinho.
Unfortunately the start of the second half was overshadowed by an ugly foul on our Egyptian Messi which led to Florenzi’s substitution. Finally, the Roman cometh! Yet it was another ‘comet’ (a real one) who signed for the second Roman goal. His name? Gervais Yao f*ckin Kouassi! He made it 2-0 in oh so typical Gervinho fashion: a quick counterattack, an out of this world sprint straight to goal and a low shot into the right corner, Marchetti was nailed to the ground. The Ivorian is now our new capocannonieri too with 6 goals from 10 games. The entire Olimpico (well, the red part at least) exploded and so did Dani in the stands, releasing his inner child while shouting Yao’s name.
After that the atmosphere got more tense, including a little brawl but nothing serious. Lazio tried to search for a life saver while Roma, as expected, threatened on the counter thanks to the speedy Yao and Florenzi. The Giallorossi simply outsmarted their neighbors, they were the more shrewd side. Woj never really had to make a difficult save. Things were getting hot in front of Roma’s goal in the final minutes but eventually Roma kept its second clean sheet of the season, after Frosinone.
All I can think of is this: Thank God that rocket from Felipe Anderson hit the woodwork. A 1-1 scoreline would have surely meant a totally different game. So yes, a bit of luck was involved and the penalty may be a gift, but Roma also played a very mature game and deservedly took the 3 points. Surprisingly, no red cards were handed out and we sneak closer to Inter, leaving a gap of 8 points with Lazio.
This derby win was Roma’s sixth win in seven Serie A games and its fourth win in the last five official games. Lazio fail to win a derby for the first time since the Coppa final of May 2013, nearly two and a half years ago. Ouch. After Leverkusen on Wednesday, this has simply been a stellar week for Giallorossi all over the world! What a way to start the international break.
The best part? At least until April the city’s bragging rights are back where they belong: in Francesco’s hands.