Il Tempo (Tiziano Carmellini) Roma’s win sent out a message to Juventus and Milan: they kept hold of 2nd place (which they share with the Rossoneri), they remain 4 points behind the leaders, and they won their 4th consecutive derby, Spalletti’s 5th overall. There are always 2 sides to the story in the derby: while the Giallorossi fans were delirious, their opponents are left to deal with the controversy and regrets of losing yet another derby (Lazio haven’t won this game since 2013).
Even though Inzaghi’s young squad weren’t outright favourites for their biggest game of the year, they had the wind in their sails after nine consecutive games without defeat. Moreover, Roma had recently been showing the same mental limitations that have hamstrung previous campaigns, causing increasing concern around the club, topped off by an injury to Salah.
This probably explains the Giallorossi’s muted start, as they hardly got going at all in the first 25 minutes. But the derby is a game unto itself, and it doesn’t matter if you play well or not: all that matters is winning it. And that’s what Spalletti was able to do once again; his team withstood the Biancocelesti’s strong start and stayed in the game, then made the most of their opponent’s errors before wrapping the game up before the final whistle. Incidentally the referee, Luca Banti, had never refereed the derby before.
In hindsight, Inzaghi may have been guilty of being a bit presumptuous as he chose not to adopt a more cautious approach by picking De Vrij, who is fit for selection again, and instead selected a very attacking lineup, sticking with the 4-3-3 which had been working so well so far this season, for the derby (played in front of nearly 40,000 fans, even though a sizeable part of the Giallorossi support stayed away from the Olimpico).
But this time, in a game which isn’t like any other despite what Zeman might have you believe, the attacking system didn’t pay off: this is a game where tensions are high and everyone is afraid to make a mistake. It was no coincidence that the difference between the sides (at least in terms of the goals scored) was that one team made 2 big individual errors: both due to overconfidence. Wallace’s error was shocking, opening the door for the superb Strootman to score Roma’s first, and while Marchetti’s was less obvious it was no less compromising as he didn’t react to the long-range shot from Nainggolan that made it 2-0 until it was too late.
The game was not short on incidents: there was a contentious penalty not given to the Giallorossi by Banti (or rather, at first it wasn’t given, then it was given on the goalline assistant’s suggestion, then it was given as a free kick instead), then there was the commotion after the first goal from Strootman (who was let off with a booking by Banti), started off by the Dutchman throwing a bit of water and ending up with a flurry of cards and angry words: a typical Rome derby atmosphere, in other words. In this game it doesn’t matter how you win, all that matters is that you do, and while the winner can smile, the loser cries and – inevitably – looks for something to complain about: especially if there is a referee, like Banti, who never gave the impression that he was in complete control of the game.
The rest is just flannel: in Rome the debates will carry on for days as fans continue the conversation on the internet, on the radio, or over a cappuccino or a cornetto. The two teams, meanwhile, like the two coaches, must think about other things. Roma can prepare for next Monday’s match against Milan with the benefit of 3 points from the derby, as well as the knowledge that they have the best attack in the league (35 goals scored) and the awareness of their strength at the Olimpico: 8 wins from 8 (including the derby, even if it was technically an away game).
Lazio must also not forget everything they have achieved so far under their young coach: they have a good squad, a good game plan, and their immature errors are only natural from a group that is both still improving and has already surprised many by how well they have done. Of course, the options you have on the bench can make all the difference when you need to turn a game around, and there’s something to be said for the fact Inzaghi could only turn to Patric, Kishna and Lombardi when he was making his substitutions.
Not even the flight of the eagle Olympia could help the young Biancocelesti coach. It was the first time that Olympia had taken to the air to fly during a derby, and the eagle’s circle around the Olimpico and perfect landing on the Biancoceleste perch was one of the few highlights of the Lazio supporters’ afternoon. Hardly enough for them to go home happy. They will hope to turn things around in their next game against Sampdoria.