They say that records don't matter in the Derby della Capitale, that the pride that comes with besting your bitter city rivals is reward enough. While today's rendition of the Rome derby was slow to start, it didn't take long for the usual tensions to surface. While the season is all but done for both clubs, Roma was looking to avoid getting swept by Lazio for the first time since 2011-2012 while Lazio was clinging to their slim top-four hopes—they entered today's match in sixth place, five points behind fourth-place Juventus, who defeated Inter Milan just prior to kickoff in Rome.
Despite the historical animosity between these two sides, stripped of Serie A spoils and playing in front of an empty Stadio Olimpico, tonight's derby took an agonizingly long time to get going. The opening 20 minutes of this match were as dull as can be, with both sides trying in vain to attack through the middle and finding precious little space elsewhere on the pitch.
It had the feeling of a scoreless snoozer, but you can only keep the Derby della Capitale down for so long. And as the match crept past the 20-minute mark, the capital's two clubs ratcheted up the intensity with Lazio making the first real attacking move of the match in the 19th minute when Lazio, working the ball down the flank, cut the ball inside to Luis Alberto in the middle of the area. Fortunately for Roma, Rick Karsdorp diagnosed the play perfectly and was able to strip Albert of the ball just as he was about to fire at Daniel Fuzato's goal.
Roma was slow to react but found a bit of luck through Edin Dzeko in the middle of the pitch. In the 24th minute, with Dzeko finally getting some space in the middle channels, Francesco Acerbi dragged the big Bosnian down from behind, gifting Roma with a free-kick from 25 to 30 yards out, dead center. Pellegrini's cheeky lob fell flat, however.
Luis Alberto would make his name known a few minutes later during an incredibly strange sequence involving Roger Ibañez, who stuck his leg well into the air while attempting to settle a high bouncing ball. Ibañez did manage to corral the ball but quickly lost possession of it, appearing to be fouled, but the referee decided to let play resume. And in the blink of an eye, the ball was swung back to Alberto in the middle of the box, who had a clear look at goal only to be denied by Daniel Fuzato, who dropped down to block the shot.
Roma continued to pump the ball into Edin Dzeko, with most of the play coming down the left through Stephan El Shaarawy and Bruno Peres. And in the 31st minute, Peres dropped a looping cross into the box for Dzeko, who was pretty well bodied up by the Lazio defense. With his back technically to the ball, Dzeko somehow managed to get his neck/shoulder on the ball, barely pushing it wide of the back post by maybe half a yard.
Lazio would quickly make hay of their own, with Sergej Milinkovic-Savic bursting through the heart of Roma's backline, creating a veritable one-v-one against Fuzato, but for some reason, rather than picking out a low corner, SMS tried to chip Fuzato and the chance went wasted—one of two shots Fuzato turned away in a five-minute span.
And just when it seemed like the first half would end without a bang, Roma opened the scorer's ledger thanks to an impressive play from Edin Dzeko.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: 42nd Minute (Roma 1, Lazio 0)
Gol!!!! Mitad de Dzeko, mitad de Mkhitaryan. Daje!!! pic.twitter.com/9eYyBxt49E— Maxi Friggieri (@MaxiFriggieri) May 15, 2021
After receiving the ball from El Shaarawy down the left, Dzeko cleverly dribbled between two Lazio defenders, shielding them from the ball and recovering it off the end line in the process, before quickly centering the ball to Mkhitaryan, who plucked it out of the air and a rather awkward height, lashing it past Pepe Reina to give Roma the lead.
With Bruno Peres picking up a yellow card in the first half, Paulo Fonseca opted to bring on Davide Santon to man the left full-back position in the second half, only to see Santon pick up a yellow within the first minute of the half—sounds about right.
Not content with a one-goal lead, Roma continued to come at Lazio in waves, attacking primarily down the left and through the middle, just as they did in the first half. The Giallorossi's first look of the new half saw El Shaarawy pick out Bryan Cristante right at the penalty spot. However, with zero time to react, Cristante managed little more than a hasty volley attempt that rainbowed over the crossbar.
In the 63rd minute, Cristante played the creator, finding Edin Dzeko at the edge of the area. Dzeko did well to unfurl a left-footed attempt towards the right post but saw the ball skirt just wide of the mark.
With the match winding its way towards the 75-minute mark, Fonseca made a double change, pulling of El Shaarawy and Lorenzo Pellegrini for Pedro and Gonzalo Villar. Not long after this double change, Lazio made their first legitimate surge towards Roma's goal, with Ciro Immobile getting past the defense and attempting to flick the ball past Fuzato at the near post but Fuzato quickly covered the gap and made a save with an outstretched arm.
Cristante and Dzeko would team up again in the 77th minute. With Edin Dzeko driving down the right-hand side of the pitch into the box, he was momentarily dispossessed but managed a panicked pass to Villar, who had trouble settling the ball. The breaks fell Roma's way as the ball fell right into Cristante's lap on the doorstep of the goal but he couldn't react quickly enough and his half-attempt went for naught.
Immobile would test Fuzato again, bursting through Roma's midfield and defense into the penalty area. With Immobile charging down the left-hand side of the box, Fuzato had no choice but to come off his line and did extraordinarily well to stick with Immobile as he attempted to skirt around Fuzato, who managed to deflect Immobile's shot as he was falling to the ground.
With 10 minutes or so remaining, Lazio finally started to show some enthusiasm and killer edge, frequently finding space through Immobile and Luis Alberto, but Roma put an end to the derby thanks to the cagey but inconsistent Pedro.
Pedro: 78th Minute (Roma 2, Lazio 0)
Golazo, Pedro. Por fin. Vamo carajo, daje, joder! pic.twitter.com/FLrCKwoSsy— Maxi Friggieri (@MaxiFriggieri) May 15, 2021
I'm sure I wasn't the only one screaming at Pedro to fire the ball to Karsdorp down the right flank, but Pedro showed incredible gumption to dribble through multiple Lazio defenders before wheeling back to the middle of the pitch and firing a left-footed goal past a hapless Pepe Reina to seal the deal.
The derby became official in the 88th minute when Francesco Acerbi was sent off for accumulated yellows—a fitting end to a frustrating evening for Lazio, who looked a step behind Roma all night long.
We have no idea what Fonseca has in store for Spezia next week, but it's a shame this wasn't the season's final fixture because this looked and felt like a proper send-off—the players were as jubilant as we've seen all year once the final whistle blew. By dusting off Lazio 2-0, Roma avoided a derby sweep for the season, notched their first derby victory since 2018, and officially put an end to Lazio's Champions League dreams for next season.
Not too shabby.
The final match of the season is set for next Sunday when Roma faces Spezia on the road.
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