It was a typically physical Rome derby and it is fair to say that Lazio have reason to be aggrieved with defeat. It was an evenly matched contest and it was ultimately decide by two, perhaps controversial penalty kicks.
Aquile received a boost prior to kick off when news filtered through that in form goalkeeper Fernando Muslera was considered fit enough to start the match. Edy Reja made a somewhat surprising decision leaving Mauro Zarate on the substitutes bench and starting with Tommaso Rocchi in attack. Perhaps Rocchi’s experience in these fixtures and love of Lazio swung the decision that way. It was a move that arguably backfired as Rocchi had a poor first half and was replaced at the interval by the Argentinean.
Both teams began brightly and with aggressive intent, creating plenty of early openings. Understandably there were plenty of nerves and the occasional pass went astray, forgivable certainly considering the occasion.
Midway through the opening period, you felt the Giallorossi were beginning to settle into the occasion began to get a foothold on the game. Fabio Simplicio saw a shot superbly blocked by Stefan Lichsteiner and Simone Perrotta’s effort missed the target by inches. Roma suffered a setback when Jeremy Menez, who aggravated a muscular injury during the warm up, broke down and had to be replaced. His replacement, Leandro Greco thought he had put Roma into the lead just before the break, his effort harshly being ruled out because the linesman had judged Marco Borriello to be offside.
The Biancocelesti, to their credit began the second half brightly but disaster struck just as they seemed to be taking control of the contest. Stefan Lichsteiner had allegedly handled a Fabio Simplicio strike and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Borriello steeped up and luckily managed to squeeze the ball past Muslera in the Biancocelesti goal.
We now needed to see character from the table toppers and despite a lot of huffing and puffing, an equaliser seemed unlikely. They did force Julio Sergio in the Roma goal to make a couple of saves but in reality, it just was not enough. Infact, it was the Giallorossi who looked the safer bet for a second, decisive goal. They kept on attacking, Claudio Ranieri urging his players forward in search of the killer goal. Simplicio shattered the Lazio crossbar when he really should have scored and as Aquile shot down the other end in desperate search of an equaliser, they had a penalty appeal turned down. It really did seem to be a nailed on penalty kick, former Liverpool man John Arne Riise appeared to haul down Stefano Mauri as the midfielder looked to tap in at the back post. Unfortunately for the Biancocelesti, despite the obvious appeals, the referee allowed the game to continue.
Pasquale Foggia hit the woodwork in what was certainly Lazio’s brightest period of the match, but as the search for an equaliser continued, Roma got themselves another penalty. Andre Dias brought down Julio Baptista and Mirko Vucinic dispatched the resulting kick to ensure Roma claimed all 3 points from this derby.
To be fair, even the most ardent Lazio supporter would struggle to argue against the outcome of this contest. Sure, there were moments of controversy, both Roma penalties were difficult to call and Aquile could have had a penalty of there own. Yet despite all that, ultimately Roma were the better team and fully deserved the 3 points.
Lazio went in to the derby sitting atop of Serie A and that is where they remain despite this setback. How long they will stay there is difficult to say, this was poor from Edy Reja’s men. This was a huge fixture for all associated with Lazio, it always is and the players simply did not turn up.
Reja blamed the officials as Coaches often do, but in reality that is just an attempt to cover up his teams misgivings. The derby is certainly a massive game and defeat will be hard to take, but it is now time to move on and focus on Lazio’s upcoming fixtures. Dwelling on this defeat for too long could be Aquile’s undoing. If they learn from it, it could ensure that their fantastic start to the season, is not wasted.