While the Derby del Sole pales in comparison to Roma's historic rivalry with Lazio, today's fixture between the Giallorossi and Napoli was as anxious and hostile as any recent rendition of the Derby della Capitale. With both sides chasing upstart outfits Bologna and Fiorentina for a top-four spot, neither Roma nor Napoli could afford to slip up this evening at the Stadio Olimpico.
And for a while, it seemed like Italy's chief southern rivals would share the spoils today. Taking their usual counter-attacking approach, Roma was happy to cede possession to Napoli early in the match, seeing approximately 37% of the ball. Still, despite the lack of touches, Roma created two golden chances in the first half, with Edoardo Bove coming within inches of scoring a beautiful curled effort from the edge of the 18-yard box—a sequence he kicked off by dispossessing Napoli deep in Roma's half.
Bove would have another shot at glory moments later when Andrea Belotti wheeled past the defense, playing a square ball to Bove in the box. But what looked like a tap-in goal soon became a highlight-worthy save for Napoli keeper Alex Meret, who denied Bove at point-blank range.
With chances hard to come by for both sides, the match soon devolved into a clutch-and-grab affair, with six yellow cards being doled out in a 15-minute span. Between that and Victor Osihmen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia flopping like dead fish at every turn, the first half wasn't exactly appointment viewing for neutral fans.
And while I wish I could say things changed in the second half, it was more of the same, but the further the match went, the more unglued it became. In the 66th minute, Napoli winger Matteo Politano saw a straight red for retaliating at Nicola Zalewski, who tugged at Politano's shirt, prompting the former Roma academy player to lash out, drawing a straight red in the process.
However, as is often the case, a one-man advantage doesn't cause a deluge of goals, but Roma's breakthrough finally came in the 76th minute when the club's embattled captain brought the house down. After Sardar Azmoun and Stephan El Shaarawy saw their shots deflected/blocked, Roma caught a break when the spin on El Shaarawy's attempt saw it roll towards the goal and towards Pellegrini, who waited for the ball to run past him before pivoting and unfurling a picturesque volley past Meret, sending the Olimpico into hysterics.
With Pellegrini's captaincy, performance, and even his spot on the team coming under question in recent weeks, you couldn't have scripted a better ending to this match, Roma's first victory over Napoli since 2019.
Romelu Lukaku would add a stoppage-time goal to put the game out of reach, but Pellegrini's heroics off the bench will garner all the headlines from this match—and rightfully so.
If you missed any of it, please enjoy the extended highlights.