When Odds Are Beat: Two Historical Lazio-Roma Derby

The Derby della Capitale between Lazio and Roma is arguably the most hotly contested in Italian football. The fierce rivalry between the two banks of the Tiber river calls for no quarter, and the outcome of such a game is never an easy one to determine – no matter how the two teams have been performing so far.

In preparation for tonight’s match at the Stadio Olimpico, The Cult of Calcio relives two famous editions of the stracittadina (“inter-city match”) when odds were beat, and the underdog unexpectedly came out as winner – one in favor of the Biancocelesti, and one for the Giallorossi.

Choreography is always the best introduction to a derby. Here is one from Roma supporters reading “There’s only AS Roma” (in Rome)…
…and here’s one from Lazio’s North Stands, featuring a huge Biancocelesti jersey

January 15, 1989 – Di Canio and that finger pointed at the South Stands

It’s been four years since the last derby in Rome. Lazio has just made it back to Serie A after spending two seasons in second division, where they also risked being relegated to lower Serie C. They were saved by a late goal by Giuliano Fiorini in a hard-battled Lazio-Vicenza, and then by a narrow 1-0 win against Campobasso in a playout match played at San Paolo Stadium in Napoli.

When Lazio and Roma square off again at Stadio Olimpico on January 15, 1989, odds cannot but be strongly in favor of the Giallorossi trained by Niels Liedholm. The pitch, however, will produce a different verdict: Lazio plays much better since the very beginning, and takes the lead 25 minutes into the game. Angelo Acerbis runs on the left flank to serve Ruben Sosa. The Uruguayan star produces a cross that catches Roma defenders by surprise: In the middle of the box, here comes all alone 20-year-old Paolo Di Canio, a home-grown Lazio youngster, ready to beat goalkeeper Franco Tancredi with a quick right foot shot that reaches the left bottom corner of the goal.

That’s the goal that solves the match. After the break, Gustavo Dezotti comes close to make it two, before the crossbar denies Roma’s Rudy Voeller the joy of an equaliser. But regardless of its outcome, this edition of the derby went down to history because of Di Canio’s celebration, who lived up to the promise he had made to his teammates – “If I score, I’ll go celebrating under the Curva Sud” – and run towards the South Stands pointing his index finger at Roma supporters. Just like former Lazio legend Giorgio Chinaglia had done years earlier, creating one of the most iconic images of the Derby della Capitale.

Giorgio Chinaglia was the first one to “point his finger” at the Roma Curva Sud supporters


January 15, 1989 – Serie A 1988-89 Round 13


SCORER: 25’ Di Canio

LAZIO: Fiori, Monti, Beruatto, Pin, Marino, Piscedda, Dezotti (90’ Greco), Icardi, Di Canio, Acerbis, Sosa (87’ Muro). (Bastianelli, Di Loreto, Rizzolo) Coach: Materazzi
ROMA: Tancredi, Tempestilli, Nela, Massaro, Oddi (82’ Gerolin), Collovati, Renato (46’ Conti), Desideri, Voeller, Giannini, Policano (Peruzzi, Andrade, Rizzitelli) Coach: Liedholm

NOTES: Attendance: 35000


November 27, 1994 – Mazzone’s Masterpiece

Despite a 4-point-only gap in the league table between the two sides, on the eve of the Roman derby of November 27, 1994, odds look much more in favor of Lazio. In the forthcoming week to the city showdown, a local sport magazine has compared the two starting lineups, player by player: The result showed a crushing 11-0 in favor of the Biancocelesti.

But the Giallorossi are trained by Carlo Mazzone, born and raised in the Roman historical neighborhood of Trastevere. Mazzone is in charge since 1993, when, at 56, he finally fullfilled his childhood dream of coaching the club he has always supported. He is a rough and tough man, but also a fine psychologist: When he comes to know about the magazine poll, he gets the idea of showing it to his team, and orders his staff to hang copies of it on the walls of Roma training center Trigoria. That’s exactly the boost his players needed.

On match day, after both supporting sides have caught applauses at the beautiful choreographies shown on the stands, Mazzone’s psychological move quickly produces results: At 2’ Daniel Fonseca controls the ball from just outside the box and crosses for Abel Balbo, whose perfect header beats Luca Marchegiani for the first time. 20 minutes later, an attacking play by Francesco Moriero produces Massimiliano Cappioli’s scoring to double Roma’s lead. After the break, a perfectly timed assist by Captain Giuseppe Giannini for Fonseca sets the score to 3-0. Lazio are shocked and stunned, and need to thank Marchegiani first (for an amazing save on a shot by Fonseca), and then Lady Luck (when Balbo hits the crossbar from an assist by Fonseca again) for preventing the gap from getting wider.

The post match is an emotional one, with Mazzone running to celebrate under the South Stands, and supporters acclaiming their commander-in-chief, Il Principe (“The Prince”) Giannini – who is raised to triumph by his teammates as he makes the sign of a “three” with his hand.

Carlo Mazzone is a “Romano de’ Roma” (“Born and raised in Rome”) – Winning a derby when coaching his favorite team of a lifetime was his maximum achievement


November 27, 1994 – Serie A 1994-95 Round 11


SCORERS: 2’ Balbo, 25’ Cappioli, 51’ Fonseca.

LAZIO: Marchegiani, Negro, Favalli (56’ Cravero), Di Matteo, Bergodi, Chamot, Rambaudi, Fuser, Boksic (11’ Casiraghi), Winter, Signori (Orsi, Bacci, Venturin) Coach: Zeman
ROMA: Cervone, Aldair (82’ S. Benedetti), Lanna, Piacentini, Petruzzi, Carboni, Moriero (67’ Annoni), Cappioli, Balbo, Giannini, Fonseca (Lorieri, Maini, Totti) Coach: Mazzone

REFEREE: Mr. Boggi from Salerno
NOTES: Attendance: 75300; Yellow Cards: Boksic, Fuser (L), Piacentini, Lanna, Fonseca, Balbo, Moriero (R); Red Card: 54′ Negro (L)

Translated by Matteo Carnevale

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