We often talk about how Roma, when they most need peace and serenity prior to a match, receive anything but; whether it's injuries, controversy or transfer rumors, there's always something ready, willing and able to distract the Giallorossi before a big match. While the midweek mishegoss wasn't too bad ahead of today's derby—they signed Chris Smalling and found new homes for Robin Olsen and Gregoire Defrel—Roma faced some last minute (literally) chaos ahead of kickoff today, as Davide Zappacosta was a late scratch at right back, forcing Paulo Fonseca to end his Alessandro Florenzi as left wing experiment before it began.
And the chaos didn't end there, as Lazio nearly took the lead in only the third minute as Lucas Leiva struck the woodwork, leaving a tasty rebound for Lazio on the right side of the goal mouth. Fortunately, Federico Fazio was able to block the second attempt, averting further chaos. Roma very nearly claimed their own early goal as Nicolo Zaniolo struck the posts at the opposite end of the pitch from 20 yards out, only to see his shot carom safely away from harm.
The next ten minutes would carry on without controversy, though neither side looked settled, but Roma would take the lead thanks to a critical error from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who was called for a handball in the box, resulting in a penalty kick that was quickly converted by Aleskandar Kolarov.
The match would open up a bit as we headed towards the half hour mark, and Roma were incredibly...incredibly...luck not to fall down 3-1 to one as Lazio hit the woodwork two more times in the span of 30 seconds in the 25th minute; Roma's defense was completely disjointed and even Pau Lopez looked unsettled and confused.
Zaniolo would hit the post again two minutes later, making that FIVE shots that clanged off the posts in 27 minutes of action. We're used to goals and red cards in the Derby della Capitale, but I'm not sure we've ever seen this—five shots off the woodwork in less than half an hour. Remarkable.
Remarkable, and as it turns out, unprecedented.
Neither side managed many clear cut chances down the stretch, and the match remained 1-0 in Roma's favor heading into the half.
The second 45 picked up right where the first half ended: with both sides playing quick, one touch football, and while Roma had a few cracks at Lazio's backline in the first ten minutes, they were done in by some poor decision making in the final third, as Nicolo Zaniolo and Justin Kluivert each ignored open teammates, preferring to take questionable shots themselves.
Lazio would begin to heap the pressure on Roma's back line, finding space at the far posts with a few nice late crosses from Stefan Radu but their main man, Ciro Immobile, would break the deadlock by setting up Luis Alberto in the 60th minute. It wasn't the worst piece of defending we've ever seen, and Immobile did a nice job holding off the defense to play it back to Alberto, but there is nothing resembling cohesion on Roma's backline at the moment, not that they're receiving a ton of help from the midfield, as neither Lorenzo Pellegrini nor Bryan Cristante were up to stopping Lazio's forward runs.
Lazio would continue to expose the Roma defense, nearly grabbing a lead as Alberto was stoned one-v-one by Pau Lopez, as Roma's new keeper showed some of his renowned reflexes to deny what should have been a clear cut chance.
The Giallorossi would struggle to foment any consistent attack, to say nothing of staying organized at the back, over the next 30 minutes. To combat this lack of efficacy, Fonseca made a series of changes, bringing on Javier Pastore for Cengiz Ünder, pushing Zaniolo out wide as a result, only to see Zaniolo subbed off for Davide Santon after suffering cramping shortly thereafter. Fonseca's final change would see Amadou Diawara make his club debut in the 88th minute, coming on for Florenzi, who never looked right after banging his shin early in the first half.
In the dying moments of the match, Lazio scored a gimme goal only to see it called off thanks to an offside call, sparing Roma another late game disaster.
And that was really all she wrote, neither side found any space in stoppage time, leaving this one a frustrating draw for both clubs, though Lazio would have had this one in the bag were it not for the posts.
What Went Right
I wanted to change the format for the ending of these match reviews, separately pulling out lowlights and highlights, and I already regret that decision. Roma's attack, though wide open and loosely restrained, wasn't quite as dangerous as they were against Genoa last week and Fonseca's men didn't really create many chances in the run of play. If you're going to play all-out attacking football, you can't be wasteful in the final third.
So, considering all that, we'll shine a light on Pau Lopez, who finally got to show off his shot stopping skills. While he was a bit nervy in the early goings, flubbing a pass or two, much like a wide receiver or running back in the NFL, all Lopez needed was a couple of touches to get settled. His one-v-one save against Alonso was, as it turned out, the dividing line between one point and no points.
What Went Wrong
Well, we sort of just mentioned it. In addition to the porous defense—who were leaving oodles of space for Lazio to rush into and were rather lackadaisical clearing the ball out—Roma's vaunted attack was incredibly poor where it mattered most: the final third, putting only three of eleven shots on target and never truly testing Strakosha in the run of play.
Roma's first two matches pointed out what we already knew: they're suspect in defense and without the veteran presence of Stephan El Shaarawy, they have no choice but to rely on the untested and inconsistent legs of Ünder and Kluivert.
Expect a lot of matches like these first two is what I'm getting at.
The always lovely international break, followed by a home match against Sassuolo on the 15th.