We mentioned it in the match preview and even in the game thread itself, but it bears repeating: the Derby della Capitale doesn't need hyping, not when you have two clubs and fanbases who treat each other with such animosity. But the importance of this match (for both clubs, really) lent a bit of added hysteria to this round 18 fixture. Roma may have been sitting pretty in third place, but Juventus, Napoli, and Atalanta were each hot on their heels and each had a match in hand, so this match had double resonance: on the streets and in the standings.
This match wouldn't determine Roma's fate this season, but it had the potential to shape and mold the Giallorossi's approach to the second half of the 2020-2021 season: could they finally topple a big club and give themselves a bit of breathing room, or would it be more of the same for Roma against one of Italy's powerhouses?
Where recent derbies featured slow burns to start the match, with both clubs taking upwards of 15 or 20 minutes before truly settling in, this match was fast and loose from the word go. With both capital clubs surging up and down the flanks, it seemed like only a matter of time before leaks would spring in either defense but the evening's first two attempts—Ciro Immobile firing straight at Pau Lopez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan losing possession in the penalty area—were rather pedestrian and didn't quite live up to the frenetic pace to that point.
Still, as the ESPN announcers were quick and correct to point out, given the break-neck pace, there was no room for complacency; every second mattered and every second demanded the player's rapt attention.
You know where this is going, don't you?
Ciro Immobile: 14th Minute (Lazio 1, Roma 0)
You miss the seeds of this play from this clip, but this all started with a beautifully struck long ball from Pepe Reina to Luis Alberto in midfield, who then quickly found Immobile on the left-hand side of the pitch. And then things got really interesting. After a quick switch of play from Immobile to Manuel Lazzari—which actually started off great for Roma as Ibañez intercepted the pass—things took a quick turn for the worse. With Ibañez nonchalantly settling the ball, Lazzari was rushing right behind him, and soon enough Lazzari forced a turnover, knocking the ball loose, leaving Pau Lopez to watch in horror as it fell right to Immobile in the middle of the box—Lazio up 1-0.
This was just a horrid lapse in concentration from Ibañez, who seemingly had no earthly idea that Lazzari was right behind him, and sure, he slipped on the pitch and his clearance deflected off Lazzari, but the seeds of destruction were planted the minute he lollygagged Immobile's initial pass. He did well to intercept the ball, but everything after that was a horror show.
Roma nearly caught a bit of luck in practically the next breath when Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pepe Reina went head to head on an aerial duel—Reina mishandled the ball and it fell right at the edge of the post—but the former Napoli keeper was able to snatch it away from harm, tantalizing Roma fans with a near gaffe that surely would have produced a goal for the Giallorossi.
Lazio would remove luck from the equation several minutes later, catching Roma napping once again.
Luis Alberto: 23rd Minute (Lazio 2, Roma 0)
While this wasn't quite as bad as the first goal, Ibañez still played the fool here, getting beat out wide by Lazzari and then taking him down in the area. Roma avoided the PK, mostly because Lazzari kept his wits about him and actually kept playing. Lazzari quickly got off the pitch and played the ball to Luis Alberto at the edge of the box who was WIDE OPEN and practically begging for the ball to come his way. There was a brief call for a VAR check, which could have covered a possible penalty on Ibañez, a possible handball on Lazzari, and a possible offside call on Caicedo (or even interference with the keeper), but the goal stood: 2-0 to Lazio after barely 20 minutes.
We'll just leave this here...
As you might expect given Roma's recent track record against bigger clubs, the ensuing 20 minutes were brutal. The Giallorossi had the lion's share of possession but struggled to make any meaningful use of it, frequently running into a brick wall in front of Reina's goal, misfiring passes around the edges, and generally lacking any fluidity or sense of purpose in the final third.
This was the absolute worst-case scenario for Roma. Not only were they down 2-0 at the half, but Fonseca's men looked fresh out of ideas and overwrought with frustration.
Fonseca made one change to begin the half: swapping out Jordan Veretout for Pedro, a move that enabled Fonseca to drop Pellegrini deeper into midfield. With Roma down 2-0, this attacking-focused swap was probably the correct call, but Roma needed a miracle to get back into this match, much less win it.
With Roma desperately seeking goals (and, let's be honest, signs of life), Lazio simply parked the bus and absorbed whatever Roma threw at them, which wasn't much; Roma didn't manage a single attempt on goal in the second half until the 85th minute! Lazio, meanwhile, were counter-attacking to their heart's content, forcing Lopez into several saves, narrowly missing a third goal on two separate occasions in a quick 63rd-minute flurry. This was nice work from Pau, but t was also entirely emblematic of Roma's performance tonight; completely inept and lacking any sense of urgency.
And somehow it got worse. At the risk of repeating myself, I'll let the in-match Tweets do the talking:
Alberto makes it 3-0....horrific...horrific defending from Roma. That entire sequence stated with a miss-hit pass from Lazio, but they still managed to waltz through Roma's "defense"— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) January 15, 2021
Lazzari might as well have been wearing concrete shoes that touch was so heavy, but he encountered zero resistance chasing down the loose ball and set up the goal.— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) January 15, 2021
If you're a glutton for punishment, here's the goal.
Luis Alberto: 67th Minute (Lazio 3, Roma 0)
Luis Alberto with a classy finish to put Lazio 3-0 up in the Rome derby pic.twitter.com/9DMfwGegPi— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 15, 2021
Just look at all the time and space given to Lazzari after that heavy touch! Lazzari then played a clever little pass to Akpro down the flank, who then played a brilliant final ball to Alberto at the edge of the area, which crossed right in front of Smalling, while Alberto had three Roma defenders just waiting for him to shoot. This 10-second sequence told you everything you needed to know about this match; only one Roman team brought the level of passion, focus, and precision necessary to win this match.
Fonseca would counter this goal by bringing on Burno Peres and Borja Mayoral for Leonardo Spinazzola and Gianluca Mancini, respectively. But those late swaps did little to inspire Roma, who, by the 80th minute, still hadn’t attempted a shot on goal in the second half.
Roma would finally manage an attempt on goal deep in the second half when Edin Dzeko found some space near the post, firing a tight angled attempt only to be quickly denied by Reina. For those keeping score at home, it took 40 minutes for Fonseca's vaunted attack to muster up a single shot on goal in the second half.
There are ugly matches and then there's this; mercifully, this match ended without much stoppage time.
Do I have to? Can't I just skip this one? I'll do twice as many chores tomorrow, I promise! Mom, please!...please!
I hope you like Spezia because you're going to see them twice next week: in the cup on Tuesday the 19th and back in the league on Saturday the 23rd.
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