This was a low quality match, even by derby standards.
It wasn’t one of those cagey derbies that has difficulty getting off the ground from two teams cancelling each other out. Instead this was a Roma side looking to hit Lazio on the break but failing with their passing, while Lazio’s own play was so imbalanced that I don’t even know who comes off looking worse for the fact they won 3-0 with a heatmap looking like Lazio just roasted marshmallows on Roma’s right wing all evening.
First Half: Defensive Mistakes and Lazio Up in Roma’s Face
The first half was typified by Roma’s defensive shape crumbling on itself. Gone was the recognizable (at times masterful) 4-1-4-1 shape off the ball, replaced by the kind of defending we saw in the away loss to Milan.
In that San Siro game, Daniele De Rossi was well off the mark when it came shielding the defense. Roma ended that match defending with seven men in a straight line, and that’s exactly how they begun last night’s game too.
Both Roman midfielders DDR and Lorenzo Pellegrini dropped far too deep, too late and that let Lazio go unpunished for committing to many men forward in their haphazard style.
Any other team on better form would have punished Lazio here, early on. You can’t count how many times the Biancocelesti have been picked off on the counter in Serie A, under Simone Inzaghi, for over-committing like this. But roller coaster Roma weren’t in the game defensively to even begin thinking about how to hurt Lazio on the break. Instead there was an early yellow card for Juan Jesus, and then a failure to defend the middle of the pitch from Fazio at a throw-in.
The mental lapse from Fazio put Juan Jesus between a rock and a hard place; the Brazilian was forced to decide whether to cover Correa’s potential shot on goal or keep marking Caicedo and run back to goal. As it happens, Juan Jesus’ indecision managed neither. JJ was easily cut out the picture by Correa’s timed assist for Caicedo’s opener. The keeping by Olsen wasn’t anything to write home about at 1-0, either.
Going down a goal sparked an early change in shape from Roma, with Cristante dropping deeper alongside De Rossi, whether subconsciously or by instruction. In either case, for the second game in a row, the chaotic midfield - combined with a hungry, in-your-face opponent - simply overwhelmed any kind of influence De Rossi could have on the ball. And he wasn’t the only veteran that was snuffed out by Lazio in the first 45.
Roma quickly figured out Lazio were waiting for the Lupi to play out of the back through Kolarov. Roma’s response to Lazio’s ‘Kolarov trap’ was to try playing through Fazio, Cristante and Florenzi to a lesser extent.
Even through Cristante’s defending left something to be desired, the Italo-Canadian was at least trying to find Roma’s frontline on the ball. EDF said post-match that the game plan was to launch attacks through Roma’s wide forwards, and you could see the plan in effect during the first half.
There were vertical passes through to both SES and Zaniolo in the half-spaces, who looked to one-touch ping it into the middle for Pellegrini and Dzeko on the regular. The problem here was two-fold: Roma’s passing up front was just putting the guy receiving the ball under pressure, and Roma were not sharp enough to get to the ball first anyway.
There was no real point to Roma having four attackers standing in a line way up front, waiting for that long pass from deep to them, when they couldn’t keep possession in Lazio’s half for longer than a couple of seconds each try. Welcome to turnover city at this point of the game.
Both teams put together 56 losses of possession over the entire match. Roma turned over the ball 6 times in Lazio’s half in the first 45 alone. Added to that, Roma were dispossessed a further 8 times inside of Lazio’s half during the first 45, almost exclusively through robbing Nicolo Zaniolo of the ball each time.
The end of the half was only noteworthy for Stefan Radu injuring Zaniolo in a hip-to-hip collision; it was one the Italian youngster tried to shake off but would ultimately catch up to Zaniolo in a second half forced substitution.
Second Half: A Tired Lazio Saved By Two Non-VAR Calls
The second half dynamic was very different, perhaps owed to Lazio starting this match with 7-9 players who all had some role to play during the midweek cup game with Milan. Knowing they only had so much energy to squeeze from their injury-hit squad, Lazio looked like they gave it all in the first half and tried to manage a 1-0 from that point. If they did so successfully, it was owed as much to the lack of intervention from VAR as anything.
Lazio only had 3 shots on Roma’s goal in the second half, and one of those was a penalty while the other was a shot going straight through Olsen’s hands in the 89th minute of the match. But let’s back it up to Lazio’s second goal.
Should the penalty have been given? Anyone looking the justify the referee’s original decision will point to the contact between Fazio and Correa’s heels, just before Correa chose to go down. Right before the penalty, however, Roma were building up momentum.
Nicolo Zaniolo did a Perotti-esque dribble into the right side of Lazio’s box on the hour, only to run out of steam in the crucial moment of deciding how to put the finishing touch on his solo move. Then none other than Diego himself came on for Zaniolo, and rumours of Perotti’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Following on from his creative passing in the Frosinone game, Perotti cut inside on his right foot and put in a ball across the face of Strakosha’s six-yard area within 63 seconds of coming onto the pitch. There was no dilly-dallying from Perotti, and his trademark finding space between the lines helped Roma to keep the pressure firmly inside Lazio’s half until the sucker 2-0 punch a quarter-hour later.
In that spell of Roma pressure, Alessandro Florenzi lets rip with 30-yard shot dipping through the air and forcing a nervous save from Strakosha. Then Dzeko and Fazio managed to get in two tame efforts on goal from corners, before Roma blew her wide open chance of the evening in the 69th minute.
Dzeko heads down a high-hanging Kolarov corner back into the 6 yard box for Pastore to get on the end of it. But the Argentine playmaker snatches at the chance and puts it wide. Arguably, Pastore could have left the chance for Lorenzo Pellegrini behind him. However, Pellegrini was off the mark with just about everything by this point in the game, that you wouldn’t have fancied him to keep the composure to equalize either.
Roma’s time in the ascendancy was over just minutes later, as another Lazio throw in led to the penalty and 2-0. Immobile’s penalty was exactly what everyone knows they need to do against Olsen: hard, low and right near to his side. In fairness, that’s exactly the area that’s hard for any keeper in world football to save. But it just seems double-hard for Olsen.
The second goal pretty much spelled the end of the game, even if Lazio would get a third; it starts with Florenzi forgetting to push up with the rest of the Roma offside trap, and then confusingly try to claim offside himself. No one was buying it, as SMS peeled off Florenzi to serve Cataldi with a lay-off.
Cataldi’s shot was saveable, but Olsen had already - and uncharacteristically - lost his cool in immediate aftermath of conceding the two prior goals. A third one wasn’t going to change much in the keeper’s night
Cue Lazio’s celebrations, and a double-booking for Kolarov that never was. Roma now go into their next Serie A match with Fazio, Dzeko and Kolarov all suspended against Empoli.
Di Francesco will continue to face doubts over his management of this hot-and-cold Roma side. And there’s the small matter facing Porto in the Dragão, this coming Wednesday.