Feature Photo: Paolo Bruno / Getty Images
Roma triumphed 3-1 in a vibrant Derby della Capitale today, when substitute Lorenzo Pellegrini found himself replacing the injured Javier Pastore, before becoming hero of the afternoon scoring the first goal of the game and participating in an additional two.
Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio temporarily equalized when Ciro Immobile took advantage of a blunder by Federico Fazio, but the Argentinian center back promptly redeemed himself making it three for his side with a header, after a screamer by Aleksandar Kolarov had given Roma the lead again.
The Giallorossi put criticism to one side, or at least shut it down for a while, as they climbed to 11 points in the Serie A standings, just one behind their city rivals. A disappointing 0-3 loss at the Santiago Bernabeu in their Champions League debut, followed by an unexpected setback in Bologna one week ago, had sparked ferocious criticism of President James Pallotta and his management.
But coach Eusebio Di Francesco and his side responded with a resounding 4-0 trampling of poor Frosinone in the mid-week Serie A Round, and followed this with victory in the battle for supremacy in the Eternal City. Roma-Lazio is always more than just a football match; it is a complicated battle of neighborhoods – the working-class districts of the city traditionally support the Wolves, whereas the upscale areas of the immense Italian capital mostly root for the Biancocelesti.
A Derby della Capitale seldom goes as planned, and that’s how it went today on a typical Roman autumn Sunday – the sun so high and the temperature so hot that it led referee Gianluca Rocchi to allow a cooling break in the middle of the first half. Yes, we are at the end of September. This is Rome. And it was fitting that a Romano de’ Roma, 22-year-old Lorenzo Pellegrini, steered the derby in a different direction after 30 minutes, when a calf injury suddenly ruled out Pastore.
The Giallorossi had needed some time to adjust to their opponents’ pressure, conceding the first goal after 20 minutes to a rampant Lazio side. Inzaghi’s Biancocelesti made themselves known with a couple of shots that went off target, the zenith of their first half being a favorable chance wasted in the box by Luis Alberto, well served from the right by Adam Marusic.
When the clock struck minute 22, Edin Dzeko created one of the few early sparks of the match (part of his staggering start to the season) when he called upon goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha to parry away his attempt following a swift counter attack. The Albanian shot-stopper repeated the feat one minute later, this time using his left foot to deflect a shot by Pastore – the last action by Roma’s number 27 before his early departure from the game.
Luiz Felipe’s miraculous tackle which prevented a close range shot by Alessandro Florenzi marked a clear turning point in the game, and appeared a prelude to the Giallorossi taking the lead. Roma converted their dominance in the 44th minute, with the helpful participation of the whole Eagles’ defense. Dzeko caught a long-range pass meant for Francesco Acerbi, while Felipe crashed into Roma’s Stephan El Shaarawy – thus confusing an already hesitant Strakosha.
Martin Caceres failed to clear, and thus the ball fell at the feet of Pellegrini who used his heel to put the Wolves ahead – his personal interpretation of Roma’s house speciality. It was the third goal scored by the Giallorossi by way of a backheel and oddly enough all three were scored in the same Stadio Olimpico goal.
Inzaghi’s attempts to rebalance the game included Marco Parolo and Luis Alberto making way for their natural replacements Milan Badelj and Joaquìn Correa, but the heat slowed down the pace of the match and allowed both defenses respite in the second half. It took a gigantic mistake by Federico Fazio to put Lazio back on track, their cannoniere Immobile mercilessly taking advantage of Fazio’s failure to control the ball, before placing it in the only spot keeper Robin Olsen could not reach.
But Lazio’s delusion only lasted four minutes. From the free kick spot, set piece specialist and former Lazio defender Aleksandar Kolarov fired a torpedo that left Strakosha and his badly-positioned wall with no chance. The Serbian let himself go on a wild celebration in front of his former Biancocelesti supporters, with whom he seems not to have left on good terms. It was a reversal of the trick he played back in 2009, when he scored for the Eagles against his current employers in another Roman derby.
Lazio’s coach added one more striker, Portugal’s Felipe Caicedo for midfielder Senad Lulic, but Roma struck again in the 85th minute, once again with the help of Pellegrini. This time, Giallorossi’s number 7 took a free kick from the right, to find Federico Fazio’s winning header and deliver the Derby della Capitale to the clutches of coach Di Francesco and his demanding fanbase.
Roma will have a favorable chance of extending their winning streak next Tuesday, as they host Czech side Viktoria Plzen in their second Champions League group stage game. Lazio, on the other hand, will need to recover fast before their upcoming trip to Germany, where they face Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday for a new Europa League test.
September 29, 2018 – Serie A 2018-19 Round 7 ROMA-LAZIO 3-1
SCORERS: 45′ Lo. Pellegrini (R), 67′ Immobile (L), 72′ Kolarov (R), 86′ Fazio
|ROMA (4-2-3-1): Olsen; Santon, Manolas, Fazio, Kolarov; De Rossi (74′ Cristante), Nzonzi; Florenzi (83′ Juan Jesus), Pastore (36′ Lo. Pellegrini), El Shaarawy (Fuzato, Mirante, Karsdorp, Lu. Pellegrini, Schick, Marcano, Under, Zaniolo, Kluivert) Coach: Di Francesco|
|LAZIO (3-5-1-1): Strakosha; Caceres, Acerbi, Luiz Felipe; Marusic, Parolo (53′ Badelj), Leiva, Milinkovic, Lulic (81′ Caicedo); Luis Alberto (53′ Correa), Immobile (Guerrieri, Proto, Patric, Berisha, Wallace, Durmisi, Bastos, Cataldi, Murgia) Coach: S. Inzaghi|
REFEREE: Mr. Rocchi from Florence
NOTES: Attendance: 47600; Yellow Cards: Olsen, Dzeko, Lo. Pellegrini (R), Badelj (L); Extra Time: 1st Half 3′, 2nd Half 4′