With Roma trailing Genoa by five points in the race for Serie A’s fourth Champions League berth, victory in this weekend’s Derby della Capitale is imperative for the Giallorossi. I Lupi have, however, lost the last two ‘away’ derbies and have won only once in their last five matches, 2-1 against Bologna on Sunday. If this has caused an air of trepidation to hang over the Curva Sud, a DVD re-run of two recent encounters with the Aquilotti will no doubt warm their hearts and get the juices flowing for Sunday’s encounter at the Stadio Olimpico.
The first, from the 2001/02 season, was defined by one man: Vincenzo Montella. Coach Fabio Capello named the former Sampdoria forward in the starting XI ahead of Gabriel Batistuta, a move which was to prove inspired with L’Aeroplanino sending the Curva Sud into raptures after only 12 minutes.
Surrounded near the corner flag by a posse of Lazio defenders, Francesco Totti played an exquisite back-heel to Vincent Candela, whose cross was headed in by the diving Montella. Lazio, who had earlier fashioned the first opportunity when Francesco Antonioli thwarted Simone Inzaghi at the second attempt, hit back with efforts from Giuseppe Pancaro and Dino Baggio but were soon two behind thanks to Montella.
Emerson touched a quick free-kick to Totti, who surged through the heart of the Biancocelesti defence and unleashed a shot which Angelo Peruzzi could only parry, allowing Montella to nip in ahead of the ball watching Alessandro Nesta. Chasing a place in the top four, Lazio, and Nesta in particular, were having a torrid time. Roma, by contrast, were vying with Milan for top spot and added a third goal eight minutes before half-time when Montella completed a 25-minute hat-trick, stealing a march on Nesta and heading Totti’s free-kick into the top corner.
Lazio Coach Alberto Zaccheroni ended Nesta’s purgatory with by replacing him at half-time and the Biancocelesti briefly threatened a response. Dejan Stanković reduced the arrears eight minutes after the restart with a long-range effort, but, seven minutes later, Roma restored their three-goal lead when L’Aeroplanino unleashed a dipping left-foot effort in off the underside of the crossbar to become the first player to score a ‘poker’ (four goals) in a capital derby.
Totti then got himself in on the act with arguably the goal of the night, receiving a pass from Montella and delightfully chipping Peruzzi from just outside the penalty area, a goal reminiscent of Philippe Albert’s for Newcastle against Manchester United in 1996.
Although not as emphatic, the Giallorossi’s victory in the February 2006 fixture is perhaps more memorable. Roma paid the highest of prices when beating Empoli a week earlier to record their tenth successive league victory with Totti fracturing his left fibula and suffering ligament damage in a challenge by Richard Vanigli.
Thus if Spalletti’s men were to create Serie A history for the most consecutive wins then they would have to do it without their talismanic captain, who watched from the bench at his team-mates’ attempts to surpass the record of ten wins last achieved by Bologna in 1964. Neither he nor the Giallorossi faithful had reason to worry though, as Roma struck in each half through Rodrigo Taddei and Alberto Aquilani to kick-start celebrations throughout the Eternal City which jammed transport routes and lasted long into the night.
Not known for his heading ability, Taddei glanced Mancini’s corner from the left into the far corner after 31 minutes before Mancini turned provider for the second after the break, weaving into the penalty area and cutting the ball back for Aquilani to side foot into the bottom corner. At full time, Totti completed a lap of honour on a stretcher cart waving a giant Giallorossi flag and then joined his team-mates at the Curva Sud to celebrate with the delirious Roma tifosi.