Lazio’s win away at Palermo was the perfect way to warm up for next weekend’s Rome derby, the most anticipated match of the season for both capital clubs.
Admittedly the Biancocelesti rode there luck in what was an ill tempered affair and certainly have Fernando Muslera to thank for coming away from the Renzo Barbera with all 3 points. The Uruguayan stopper was in sensational form and, despite a couple of hairy moments, proved exactly why he is being monitored by several of Europe’s top clubs.
It perhaps was destined to be an ugly affair after all the pre-match sparring from both clubs. Rosanero coach Delio Rossi fanned the flames before this encounter, claiming he did not respect Lazio president Claudio Lotito and Palermo president Maurizio Zamperini provided Edy Reja with an ideal team talk, proclaiming the Romans were lucky to be at the top of Serie A. It was all rather petulant from the Sicilians and has made them look rather silly now, considering Lazio’s victory in their own backyard.
Lazio began the match nervously and almost fell behind early on after a horrible mistake by defender Giuseppe Biava. He gifted possession to the one player he really should not of – Palermo’s star player Javier Pastore. Only Muslera in the Biancocelesti goal saved Biava’s blushes. The Rosanero continued to dominate and Lazio again had Muslera to thank, the goalkeeper making a couple of important saves to ensure Aquile were not blown away in the first half.
Unbelievably Lazio broke the deadlock, Andre Dias slamming a volley past Salvatore Sirigu in the Palermo goal. It was a goal that silenced the partisan Sicilian following and gave Lazio the impetus as the game headed for the interval.
Predictably the home team began the second half brightly but were dealt a crushing blow when Abel Hernandez, who was only introduced at half time, limped off with an injury. The injury momentarily galvanised the visitors and they settled down there play and were keeping Palermo’s key players quiet. It looked as if the Rosanero were resigned to defeat but they again began to pour forward and came close on a couple of occasions, Ezequiel Munoz almost levelling the sores up with a header. Muslera came to the Biancocelesti’s rescue again beating away a Mauricio Pinilla effort after the player had broke the offside trap.
It looked to be all falling apart for Lazio when Giuseppe Biava was dismissed with fifteen or so minutes to play for a second bookable offence. Palermo laid siege to the visitors’ goal but just could not break down Lazio’s stubborn resistance, the visitors admittedly getting away with it on occasion but their superb defending perhaps earned Aquile some much needed luck. Perhaps the luck Zamparini spoke of came back to haunt Palermo’s president. The relief was clear for all to see as the full time whistle went, meaning Lazio had gone 4 points clear of Milan following their disastrous defeat at home to Juventus on Saturday evening.
Attention now inevitably turns to next weekend’s Rome derby, the most eagerly awaited date on the footballing calender everybody associated with the Biancocelesti and the Giallorossi. Italy’s capital will certainly be an interesting place to be over the next few days as banter will certainly be flying around the workplaces and pubs of the city.
The question is, is there a better time to be playing Roma than right now? They are struggling at home and in Europe and will go against Lazio without captain and talisman Francesco Totti. The playmaker was sent off in Roma’s clash with Lecce for stupidly slapping Ruben Olivera. With confidence low, Claudio Ranieri heads into this clash under increasing pressure and certainly will need to get something out of the capital city derby to even remotely appease all associated with the Giallorossi. It is often said form goes out of the window when two rivals go head to head, but surely it is Lazio who will be heading into this game derby feeling relaxed and ready to go. They head into the clash with their biggest rivals sitting 4 points clear at the top of Serie A knowing whatever the outcome of the match, they will remain at the top of the table.
Coach Edy Reja admits it is certainly a boost for his team that Francesco Totti will not be playing for Roma. He claimed whilst sporting a rather cheeky grin “that it is much better for me that Totti doesn’t play.” The tactician also gave away a secret of the dressing room on after the Palermo game claiming the word ‘I’ is banned. He proclaims, and you certainly cannot argue, the team is the most important thing – wise words from the man who will certainly be looking to get one over Ranieri next weekend and deliver victory to a Lazio team in tremendous form and head into the Roma clash unbelievably 4 points clear at the top of Serie A.