A second derby win of the season has brought the kind of joy to Laziale that hasn’t been felt since the reign of Sven Goran Eriksson in 1997/98, a tenure that ultimately brought the Scudetto to the blue side of Rome. A Derby della Capitale is never complete without controversy, and Sunday’s encounter was no exception as fans witnessed a penalty, red cards for both sides, bookings in abundance, and an electric atmosphere.
However, it was the Aquile who were cheering at the final whistle and there are many reasons to celebrate. The result of this match was always going to be pivotal in judging both sides’ objectives for the rest of the season, and a win for Lazio has now encouraged rather premature talk of a late Scudetto push. Although this will probably prove a bridge too far, the fact that the Biancocelesti have moved into the third and final Champions League qualifying spot is a huge achievement and this should remain their objective for the season. The fantastic atmosphere that is currently circling around the Lazio camp is a remarkable turnaround considering that only a week or so earlier Edy Reja had offered his resignation to club President Claudio Lotito on the back of a 5-1 humiliation at Palermo and tensions over a poor January mercato.
The evident unity and team spirit of this Lazio side has proved their doubters wrong all season, as they have shown themselves more than capable of grinding out results whilst not playing particularly well, as well as turning up in the big games when it matters most. On top of taking all six points from their city rivals this season, Lazio have also taken four from their two fixtures against reigning champions AC Milan, breaking a winless streak that stretched since the late ‘90s along the way. Casting a glance over the biancocelesti’s remaining fixtures, a top three finish certainly seems achievable.
They must still travel to both Juventus and Udinese, but the crucial fixtures are likely to be the home clashes against Napoli and, on the final day, Inter. Whilst early in the season the Aquile were lauded for their away form, they have turned the Olimpico into a fortress in 2012 with wins in all four home league games as well as the ‘away’ leg of the derby. With Napoli, Milan and Inter still in Champions League contention and Udinese flying the flag in the Europa League, Lazio are also in the advantageous position of concentrating only on Serie A.
As for Roma, a disappointing season has turned into a crisis after this result. The humiliation of successive derby defeats and a ten point gap from their neighbours may see the tifosi finally lose patience with Luis Enrique. The Spaniard’s attempts to get Roma playing attractive football in the ‘BarceRoma’ mould has seen the giallorossa swing between the brilliant and the farcical, as consistency remains their biggest fault. Lazio fans in the Curva Nord mockingly sang Enrique’s name at the final whistle, and huge pressure is now on the young coach to lead Roma to a top six finish.
It is almost impossible to judge how they will react to the disappointment of a second derby defeat, and their performance in a difficult trip to Palermo this weekend could give an idea of which way this Roma side will swing for the rest of the season. Like their rivals, Roma have no European distraction but with both Sicilian sides bearing down on them, the giallorossa will need to find a cure for their consistency problem.