At the risk of repeating ourselves from this afternoon's game thread, when Roma and Lazio meet, the win-loss records are irrelevant. The points at stake are no less important, of course, but the sheer hostility between these clubs and their respective fan bases makes the Derby della Capitale appointment viewing regardless of where the two Roman teams find themselves in the standings. However, with Lazio and Roma separated by one point on the table, there were actual, tangible rewards at stake today—the winner stood to tighten their grasp on fifth place, putting them in the driver's seat for the Europa League with eight matches left to play.
All of which made José Mourinho's lineup selections more puzzling. While The Special One had to strike a balance between Roma's Conference League obligations and their remaining Serie A schedule, I'm not sure many Roma fans envisioned Nicolo Zaniolo riding the pine while players like Nicola Zalewski and Sérgio Oliveira got the nod, but that mattered little once the refrains of Roma, Roma, Roma bellowed from every corner of a jam-packed Stadio Olimpico—the Giallorossi (and their fans) were ready to run through a wall.
And, in true derby fashion, this match began in complete chaos. After taking the opening kickoff, Roma cut right at the heart of the Lazio defense with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lorenzo Pellegrini taking the initiative. After Mkhitaryan was pushed over at the edge of the box, Pellegrini scooped up the loose ball and cut in from the left, colliding with multiple Lazio defenders while attempting to create an early scoring chance.
While Pellegrini's move looked good at first blush, thanks to a rather heavy touch, the Roma captain wasn't able to retain possession and the ball soon found its way back to Lazio keeper Thomas Strakhosha, who was dispossessed by Mkhitaryan, winning an early corner-kick for the Giallorossi in the process.
But what came next nearly tore the roof off the building...
Tammy Abraham: 1st Minute (Roma 1, Lazio 0)
The man of the hour! Tammy Abraham opens the scoring for Roma in less than a minute. pic.twitter.com/UKMssIksqI— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 20, 2022
After unleashing an inswinging corner that nearly beat Strakosha itself, the ball bounded off the crossbar and fell right into Tammy Abraham's lap—literally. From there, all the English striker had to do was gently redirect the ball into the back of the net, giving Roma an extremely early lead and sending the crowd into hysterics—certainly an auspicious start for a club that has left it too late far too many times in 2022.
While they didn't immediately double their tally, the ensuing 10-12 minutes were all Roma. From Sérgio Oliveira dispossessing Lazio deep in Roma's defensive third and then shielding the ball while juggling it and flicking it back over his head to Tammy Abraham back-heeling the ball in the middle of the park to well-orchestrated team moves from the back, Mourinho's men were playing with a sense of purpose and confidence we haven't seen in months.
Lazio had their moments early in the first half, of course, with Sarri-Ball and its one-touch moves on full display as the Biancocelesti tried in vain to spring Ciro Immobile into space deep in the final third. While they made a bit of noise in front of Rui Patricio's area, Roma's backline did well enough to sweep away the danger, keeping the Giallorossi's one-goal lead intact as the match pushed past the twenty-minute mark.
And just when it seemed like Lazio were finding a bit of breathing room in the match, Tammy Abraham sent the Stadio Olimpico swooning...again.
Tammy Abraham: 22nd Minute (Roma 2, Lazio 0)
IT'S THE TAMMY ABRAHAM SHOW! ROMA'S NUMBER 9 DOUBLES THEIR LEAD! pic.twitter.com/pq5gFRJqGF— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 20, 2022
After overlapping Mkhitaryan down the right flank, Karsdorp drove the ball deep into the Lazio box before flashing it across the face of the goal to an awaiting Abraham, who, with his long right leg extended, picked the ball out of mid-air and beat Strakosha without missing a beat. For Abraham, that was his second goal of the match in only three touches, pushing his season total to 23 in all competitions—incredible stuff from the 24-year-old.
Roma would continue to hunt for goals in packs, nearly picking out a third several minutes later when Nicola Zalewski nearly created something out of nothing, while also giving Abraham a crack at a hat-trick after the young winger's shot was turned/deflected away.
To say that Roma were dominant through the first 30 minutes tonight would be an understatement. Not only did they beat Strakosha with two blink-and-you'll-miss-it goals, but they also held Sarri's vaunted attack to only one shot on goal through the opening half-hour (and it wasn't even on-target) while they managed to pump eight attempts the other way. This was the Mourinho masterclass we envisioned when Roma landed The Special One last spring. Roma were playing with pride, purpose, and aggression—and it was a joy to watch.
Lazio's first on-target attempt wouldn't arrive until the 38th minute when Luis Alberto unfurled a 20-yarder Rui Patricio's way, and while it was well-struck, the Roma netminder smothered it without missing a beat, preserving Roma's nearly flawless first-half performance.
And in keeping with the historical theme of the Derby della Capitale, Roma showed no mercy on their opponents, pushing their advantage to three-nil thanks to one of the best free-kicks we've seen this season.
Lorenzo Pellegrini: 40th Minute (Roma 3, Lazio 0)
ROMA ARE RUNNING RIOT! A STUNNING GOAL FROM LORENZO PELLEGRINI. pic.twitter.com/s4e6VpGrB5— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 20, 2022
After teeing it up from twenty-some-odd yards out, Pellegrini, in a spot perhaps better suited to a lefty, bent the ball into the tiniest possible crevice in the extreme upper right-hand corner of the goal. Strakosha may have gotten a fingernail to it, but thanks to this sublime effort from Roma's captain, he never stood a chance—no keeper on earth was stopping that shot; it was perfect.
And Roma wasn't done yet, as Mkhitaryan nearly made it four-nil moments later, seeing his curling effort miss the underside of the crossbar by maybe an inch and three-quarters. With three minutes tacked on the end of the first half, bagging a fourth (or even a fifth) goal wasn't out of the question—Roma was playing that well.
Sadly, they weren't able to further compound Lazio's misery before the stroke of halftime, but this was perhaps the best we've seen Roma play all season long.
While José Mourinho opted for no changes, the second half began under a pretty steady downpour that threatened to take a bit of juice out of the match. Despite the precipitation, the new half began with Lazio finally stitching together a series of passes in the attacking third, with former Roma winger Pedro misfiring on the first attempt of the half.
Whether it was the rain or the simple ebbs and flows of the sport itself, Lazio continued to press the issue early in the second half, with Ciro Immobile nearly stealing a goal back in the 50th minute, only to be denied by a last-ditch Roger Ibañez deflection. It's not that Roma were relenting in any capacity, Lazio finally started to show more initiative, stringing together passes that escaped them in the first half and finding tiny seams in Roma's backline, but thanks to Chris Smalling's savvy play and Ibañez's quick reactions, they were able to keep Lazio at bay.
And since this is a derby we're talking about, and one in which one side was thoroughly dominant, it was only a matter of time before tensions started to boil over. While Roma were minding their Ps and Qs for much of the match, you could only contain Gianluca Mancini for so long, who picked up his 13th yellow card of the season in the 53rd minute after colliding into Luis Alberto—Roma's second card in a tense five-minute span that saw the two clubs nearly come to blows.
As the match moved past the hour-mark, Roma appeared to take their foot off the gas slightly, still playing with purpose but not exactly rushing forward with aplomb. Despite that subtle shift in energy, Roma still managed to toy with the Lazio defense/midfield all the same, denying their city-rivals a single shot on goal.
Sarri would respond by making a series of changes in the 65th minute, bringing in young Luka Romero in place of the ineffective Felipe Anderson and Danilo Cataldi for Lucas Leiva. But it mattered little as Tammy Abraham nearly secured his hat-trick in the 67th minute, finding himself in a veritable one-v-one with Strakosha, but he just couldn't steer the ball past the Lazio keeper, who did well to come off his line and shrink the attacking angle to practically zero.
Mourinho would make Roma's first change of the match in the 74th minute, swapping out Nicola Zalewski for Matías Viña, giving the Giallorossi a stronger defensive posture for the final 15 minutes of the match. Roma would go to the bench once more in the 80th minute, bringing Jordan Veretout into the mix in place of Sérgio Oliveira, who picked up a yellow shortly before the change, giving Lazio a free-kick in prime real estate, one that sailed well over the bar.
With 10 minutes left on the clock and three points in the bag, Roma's attention shifted to preserving the clean sheet. A derby win is great and all, but what better way to embarrass Lazio than a clean three-nil win?
Lazio tried their level best to at least save face in this match, with Immobile firing a snapshot at Patricio in the 83rd minute only to see the Portuguese keeper drop to the ground in a flash to deny Serie A's leading scorer.
Mourinho would go to the bench in the 87th minute, giving Pellegrini a chance to bask in the applause of his fellow Romans, as he made way for another local kid, Edoardo Bove. Even with five minutes of stoppage time, the Giallorossi dominance continued, as the backline continued to swarm, denying Lazio at every turn to finish out the derby with three goals and three critical points.
The international break. See you on April 3rd when Roma faces Sampdoria on the road.
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