by Michael Pearson
The Rome Derby is always an enormous occasion. Lazio versus Roma. The ‘Biancocelesti ‘(The White & Sky Blues) against The ‘Giallorossi’ (The Yellow-Reds).
Arguably, Sunday’s fixture was the most eagerly anticipated in years.
Even a power cut (which halted the match in the first few minutes) and a match-long ‘biblical’ thunderstorm couldn’t dampen expectations.
On resuming, Roma ignited and left Lazio in the gloom. Just 9 minutes in, Erik Lamela converted Totti’s corner- with an accomplished diving header. The Argentine midfielder is in magnificent form and has now scored 7 goals in 6 games.
Thereafter, the weather worsened. Both sides struggled to play through driving rain and deep puddles, but Lazio adapted and appeared more assured in the atrocious conditions. Mauro Goicoechea -Roma’s 3rd choice keeper- thwarted Klose and Konko, to preserve the The ‘Giallorossi’s slim advantage. But the ‘loanee goalie’ fell victim to the weather in the 35th minute. Antonio Candreva’s fierce free kick skidded through his gloves and into the net.
After his January arrival, Candreva was viciously abused by his own supporters- for his supposed and unfounded Roma sympathies- he has quickly turned the jeers into cheers and is now a cult hero. His equaliser galvanised The ‘Biancocelesti.
Klose was a menace and fired over, following a lung-bursting counter attack by the confident Candreva. But, the German veteran declined to be denied and finally pounced 2 minutes before half-time. A Hernanes cross- shot was slowed down by a puddle, allowing Klose to get between two defenders and poke home from six yards.
Roma were riled and their capitulation continued into 1st half stoppage time. Danielle De Rossi punched Lazio Captain Stefano Mauri and was deservedly sent off.
There was no immediate respite for Roma after the interval. It took Lazio just 90 seconds of the second period to extend their lead. Ivan Piris’ weak defensive header fell at the feet of Mauri, who made no mistake in slotting from the edge of the area. Grabbing such a vital goal was undoubted redemption. Last summer Mauri was arrested, jailed and then freed as part of the Calcioscommesse match-rigging investigation.
Petkovic’s Lazio were continued attacking, but Roma reorganised and created chances themselves.
Osvaldo and Marquinos went close as they continued to pressurise late in the game.
With 5 minutes to play, there was another red card. The influential Mauri was sent off. He was adjudged to have handled on the halfway line, though replays showed it may have hit his shoulder.
Zeman’s Roma took full advantage. Pjanic scored directly from the resulting free kick. He swerved a speculative ball beyond a stranded Marchetti. A bizarre goal.
A frantic finale followed. ‘The Gillarossi’ nearly equalised at the death, but Marquinho and Osvaldo, greedy for glory, got in each others’ way.
Lazio held firm, inflicting a 3rd straight ‘Derby della Capitale’ defeat on Roma. Their Coach, Vladimir Petkovic, continues to impress in his debut Italian season.
“We are going to enjoy the moment,” he said “It was important for me to win my first derby. It’s among the strongest emotions I’ve ever felt.”
In contrast, Roma Boss, Zdenek Zeman, bitterly blamed the weather.
“We played for as long as there was a pitch you could play football on, but with so much water the team stopped. We can’t play a long ball game like our opponents.”
Lazio fans will no doubt delight in hearing those excuses.They continue to be ‘Padroni di Roma’ (Masters of Rome).