It may be hard to believe, but we made it through a Derby della Capitale, one of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports, without a single red card or even so much as a dirty look. There were some crunching tackles, a few yellow cards and some controversial refereeing decision of course, but this wasn't the bloody battle to which we're accustomed. What we saw instead was a dominant performance from Roma masked by 1-1 draw, one in which Roma were one questionable Pau Lopez decision away from winning.
A draw is certainly better than a defeat, but with their cool three point cushion over fifth place Atalanta reduced to one solitary point, the Giallorossi's feet are firmly in the fire now.
But that's a problem for Future Ted and Future Marshall, so let's focus on the highs and lows from yesterday's derby draw.
Was Francesco Acerbi interfering with Pau Lopez? Yeah, a bit. Was this the most egregious what the fuck moment we've ever seen from a Roma keeper? Yeah, without a doubt. I've watched this many times since then and I still looks to me like Lopez thought the ball was out and was just taking a half-hearted poke at the ball, and based on how laissez faire his teammates were, it sure seemed like all the men in red thought the play was dead, or at least heading that way.
Lopez was fine beyond that, and we're only a week or so off arguably his best performance for Roma against Genoa, but when you commit an error that glaring there's no escaping the criticism.
We talk a lot about transfers in these spaces, but Roma made two tremendous additions by non-subtraction this winter (keeping Leonardo Spinazzola after he “failed” Inter's medical being the other). With Roma desperate for depth out-wide in the wake of Nicolo Zaniolo's injury, the rumor mill led us to believe that the Giallorossi were considering swapping Ünder with AC Milan's Spanish winger, Suso.
I'll always maintain that Suso is an underappreciated player, but given how Ünder has played since returning from injury, slowly morphing into the player we all fell in love with two years ago, the very thought of trading him for Suso seems absurd.
While Cengiz didn't find the back of the net yesterday, virtually every credible Roma attack involved the 22-year-old Turk somehow. In 90 minutes, Ünder had three shots on goal, three key passes, drew three fouls, hit on three of six long balls and...are you ready for this...completed NINE successful dribbles! And these weren't simply let-me-run-by-you dribbles, he was cutting in, diving between defenders, skipping, squeezing and jab stepping his way around and between the Lazio defense all evening.
It took him a bit of time to shake off the rest at the start of this year, but you gotta remember how much we were dreading his seemingly inevitable sale abroad after his debut season with Roma.
Cengiz Ünder is a terror on the pitch and Roma much, much better off with him than without.
In so many ways, as Dzeko goes, so goes Roma. And today was no exception. Dzeko went the full 90 again today, ripping off an astounding eight shots (including three on goal), chipped in two key passes, completed two long balls and, of course, scored Roma's lone goal with beautifully chipped header over the head of a quickly charging Thomas Strakosha.
Chris Smalling & Gianluca Mancini
We'll pair these two together because they did an impeccable job of removing Ciro Immobile from this match. While Immobile had one attempt towards the end of the match, Smalling and Mancini had him completely smothered this evening, limiting the impending capocannoniere to only 22 touches and one shot on goal. It wasn't a huge statistical evening for Roma's central pairing, but they read every angle correctly and had every beat perfectly timed to render Lazio's biggest gun impotent.
Roma probably deserved to win this match, and dropping those two extra points will make life tougher down the stretch, but you have to be impressed with Roma's performance yesterday. Paulo Fonseca's tactics and lineup selections were spot on. Ünder was sensational, Dzeko was productive, the full-backs were dangerous and the defense was rock solid.
If Fonseca can bottle this up and bring it back next week, Roma will be just fine.