Lazio 4-2 Roma: Everything You Desire from a Derby della Capitale (Serie A Matchday 31)

Lazio's Mauro Zarate (L) celebrates after scoring as AS Roma's Julio Baptista reacts during their Serie A soccer match at the Olympic stadium in Rome April 11, 2009. (REUTERS)

These are dire days in Italy, as an entire nation mourns the losses from the Abruzzo earthquake earlier this week. Hundreds of casualties and thousands of homeless people in central Italy, but as they say in sporting terms, “the show must go on”.

And what a show it was today at the Stadio Olimpico of Rome, really everything you could desire from a tense, heart-felt Roman derby: goals, drama, and the inevitable yellow/red cards. Yes, we can all hide under a politically-correct façade and claim “no one wants to see those in soccer” but the truth is, sending off offences are a testimony to how much a derby victory represents for these teams. In particular two teams who, let’s be honest, can safely call the 2008-09 season a failure.

Lazio can be doubly satisfied with their victory today. Not only did they reacquire a bit of pride after three consecutive league losses, but they triumphed over their arch-nemesis, Roma, increasing their positive “home” trend in the Derby della Capitale to three (after the 3-0 and 3-2 victories in 2007 and 2008) and effectively nullifying the Giallorossi’s Champions League hopes for next season. Just the right kind of victory Delio Rossi needed to keep his job.

It’ll be a very happy easter in the Biancocelesti manager’s home, no doubt.

Note: Once again, I find myself in the position of having to apologize for the lack of recent updates. I’ve been having a rough time this week on a personal level, and to make matters worse I sustained a sprained ankle Wednesday (playing soccer, what else) which will keep me sidelined for a few weeks. My heart & mind’s just not been “in it”. Hopefully things will get better soon, so thank you for your fidelity and your patience.

Serie A 2008-09 - Lazio vs. Roma

Serie A 2008-09 - Day 31 - Lazio 4-2 Roma

Tactically, Rossi confirmed pre-match expectations by fielding his now adopted 4-4-2 line-up and leaving Tommaso Rocchi (scorer of the Biancocelesti’s last three league goals) on the bench. Full confidence to Zarate and Pandev up front therefore, with Foggia supporting on the left side of midfield. On the other end, Spalletti replied with Perrotta-Baptista-Totti as the offensive trio and Brighi-De Rossi-Pizarro in front of the backline.

AS Roma and Lazio players observe a minute of silence to honor the victims of the earthquake that struck the Abruzzo region on Monday, April 6, prior to the start of their Serie A soccer match at Rome's Olympic stadium, Saturday, April 11, 2009. The banner in background reads "Abruzzo, Rome is with you". A 6.3-magnitude quake killed at least 290 people on Monday in the city of L'Aquila and 26 surrounding villages. (AP Photo)

As far as surreal matches go, the first 15 minutes of Lazio-Roma were something to behold. Not even 250 seconds had gone by after the ref’s kick-off whistle, that the Biancocelesti were finding themselves already 2-0 up. It all stemmed from a non-existent Lazio corner-kick (Mexès tackle on Zarate and last touch by the Argie striker) which was rapidly fed by Brocchi to Pandev, ready to arm the rotating volley into the bottom-right corner. Two minutes later, Mauro Zarate inebriated his two markers on the left side, and slammed an incredible 25-yard shot straight into Doni’s top-right corner. Exactly the kind of goal for which Zarate had marvelled Serie A viewers early in the season, and which had somewhat been lost in translation these last few months. 1-0 and 2-0 Lazio. To think that before tonight, the Biancocelesti had scored only 11 first-half goals (out of 39) in the current season.

Roma were obviously under shock, but Spalletti told his troops not to give in to panic. Putting Totti and Baptista slightly more on the wings (right and left respectively, to give Perrotta more space for his central incursions), the Giallorossi fought right back and forced Muslera to a super-save on Panucci in minute 10. On the following corner, Baptista’s parried effort was picked up by Philippe Mexes for the 2-1 goal. Roma were back in it.

AS Roma's Daniele De Rossi covers his face as he leaves the field after their Italian Serie A soccer match against Lazio at the Olympic stadium in Rome April 11, 2009. (REUTERS)

The Giallorossi had momentum back on their side, controlling the plays thanks in particular to… Baptista (hard to believe, I know). In truth, the physical confrontation between “The Beast” and Lichtsteiner left no doubts on the winner, which in turn forced Brocchi to pull back very often, in order to give the Swiss full-back a hand. The last big scare for the “home” team in the first half, arrived when Baptista slammed a powerful header onto the post in minute 38, and De Rossi missed the winning tap-in. It was 2-1 at the break.

The second half resumed without Luciano Spalletti on Roma’s bench (sent off during the interval, after a tunnel argument with Lazio’s team manager Ighli Tare). Jeremy Menez came on for Perrotta, trying to somewhat justify the immense hopes put into the French talent (no luck today either, I’m afraid). Lazio came very close to their third goal through Pandev (wasted counter-attack), eventually finding it through Stephan Lichtsteiner: good work from Foggia on the right wing, cross for the Swiss international and free header to beat Doni. 3-1 Lazio.

Lazio's Serbian defender Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates after scoring during the Italian serie A football match AS Roma against Lazio on April 11, 2009 at Olympic stadium in Rome. Lazio won 4-2. (GETTY IMAGES)

Then, nerves and tension started to get the upper hand on beautiful plays. Minutes after his goal, Lichsteiner was once again in the spotlight for a mini-altercation with Panucci, after a latter’s foul on Zarate. Both players received yellows for their “efforts”, which meant red card and an early shower for the Roma center-back. 10 vs. 11 rapidly turned into 9 vs. 10 for Roma, after a Mexès-Matuzalem argument resulted in another two red cards being shown by the referee. Not the greatest way to end a Derby della Capitale, especially considering the delicate situation in Italy a hundred kilometers away.

The reduced roster complement certainly didn’t mean game over for Roma however, and Daniele De Rossi took care of returning hope for his team when, in minute 80, he placed an accurate header where Muslera couldn’t reach. 3-2 with more than 10 minutes to go. Alas, hope didn’t last for longer than 5 minutes for the “visitors”, because Aleksandar Kolarov had other plans. Grabbing the ball close to his own box, the Serbian defender proceeded to make a 50m run, dribble a couple of defenders, and apply a cool right-footed finish for the final 4-2 Lazio tally.

Lazio players celebrate at the end of the Serie A soccer match between Lazio and AS Roma, at Rome's Olympic stadium, Saturday, April 11, 2009. Lazio won 4-2. (AP Photo)


S.S. Lazio
[Match Highlights]
A.S. Roma
GOALSCORERS: 2’ Pandev (L), 4’ Zarate al 4 (L), 10’ Mexès (R), 58’ Lichtsteiner (L), 80’ De Rossi (R), 85’ Kolarov (L).
LAZIO (4-4-2): Muslera – Lichtsteiner (74’ De Silvestri), Siviglia, Rozenhal, Kolarov – Brocchi, Ledesma, Matuzalem, Foggia (80’ Mauri) – Zarate (65’ Rocchi), Pandev. (bench: Carrizo, Diakhite, Dabo, Meghni). Coach: D.Rossi.
ROMA (4-3-2-1): Doni – Motta, Mexès, Panucci, Riise – Brighi (65’ Tonetto), De Rossi, D.Pizarro (89’ Taddei) – Perrotta (85’ Menez), J.Baptista – Totti. (bench: Artur, Loria, Diamoutene, Cassetti). Coach: Spalletti.


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Posted in Lazio, Roma, Serie A |

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