It was time for the 129th Rome derby tonight at the Stadio Olimpico. Roma and Lazio went into the game in contrasting moods, as the Biancocelesti are riding high near the top of the table, while the Giallorossi are just above the relegation zone, 14 points below their bitter rivals.
Roma coach Luciano Spalletti opted for a 4-3-1-2 formation with Julio Baptista behind Mirko Vucinic and captain Francesco Totti, while Lazio’s Delio Rossi played with a 4-3-3 with target men Goran Pandev, Tommaso Rocchi, and Mauro Zarate in attack.
In the opening minutes it was a cagey affair as both teams tried to study one another, and the first dangerous moves did not come until the quarter hour mark.
In the 19th minute, Pandev received the ball in the area and played a shrewd pass to Zarate, who fired the ball on the side netting, but the referee had already stopped the play for an offside position. Replays showed Zarate probably was not offside.
At the other end, the Giallorossi responded immediately as Christian Panucci sent in a great that was met by Vucinic’s header, but somehow goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo managed to parry the ball away in what was a brilliant point-blank save.
Zarate came close for Lazio again in the 23rd minute, when he was found by a cross from Christian Brocchi which he headed down and sent the ball just wide of the target. The young Argentinean striker continued to be Lazio’s main danger man, and in the 31st minute he went past two defenders and unleashed a shot that forced a nice save from Alexandre Doni.
Roma responded a few minutes later, with a dangerous shot from the edge of the area by Vucinic which caught defenders Stefan Radu and David Rozenhal off guard (34’).
The Biancocelesti threatened again in the 37th minute, when Pandev played the ball forward for Rocchi, who tried to beat Doni with a spectacular overhead kick that went wide of the target.
The final chance of the half was for Baptista, who tried his luck with a shot from the edge of the area after receiving the ball from Totti, but his effort went well wide of the post.
The teams went back into the dressing room on a goalless score that accurately reflected a very evenly matched first half.
The second half began with the same 22 players that started the first half.
The first chance of the restart immediately led to a goal for Roma, as captain Totti’s fine cross was glanced into the back of the net by a precise header from Baptista in the 50th minute. At the other end, Lazio almost found a lightning quick equaliser, as a misunderstanding between Philippe Mexes and Doni allowed Zarate to head it in, but the Roma keeper somehow managed to tip the ball over the bar.
Lazio continued to threaten after Roma’s opening goal, and in the 65th minute Pandev latched on to a loose ball on the edge of and unleashed a low drive that went just wide of the post. A minute after that, though, Delio Rossi’s side were left behind with ten men as Cristian Ledesma was handed a second yellow card.
Still, the Biancocelesti showed no signs of giving up and in the 69th minute Rocchi did great to turn around his marker and fire a dipping shot that went just wide of the top corner of the net with Doni well beaten.
It continued to be an entertaining affair in the second half, and minutes later it was Roma captain-to-be De Rossi who made himself dangerous, as he fired a ferocious shot from inside the area that called Carrizo into serious action (73’).
The chances continued to pile up, and in the 75th minute Rocchi played the ball to Pandev, who had only Doni to beat but the goalkeeper came up with a great stop. A similar chance fell on the other end for Jeremy Menez, who came in to replace Totti a minute earlier, but once again it was goalkeeper Carrizo who had the better in the one-on-one situation.
In the final ten minutes, Roma leaned back a lot to protect their lead and the pace slowed down somewhat. In the 85th minute, there was a chance for Lazio as substitute Simone Inzaghi headed the ball wide from an excellent position on a nice assist by Zarate.
Two minutes after that, there was another twist as Simone Perrotta was also sent off for a second bookable offence, but this hardly influenced the final minutes of the match. In the 90th minute, Lazio came desperately close again thanks to good work from Zarate, who found Stefan Lichtsteiner inside the area, but the full back could not get his header on target from a good position.
After four minutes of injury time, Roma were finally able to celebrate a very hard-fought, and perhaps somewhat undeserved, 1-0 victory against Lazio thanks to Julio Baptista’s header. The tradition of the underdog winning the derby continued, but Roma remain low down the table in 17th place (with 11 points), while Lazio are in 5th place with 22 points.
GOALS: 50’ Baptista
Roma (4-3-1-2): Doni; Panucci (77’ Cassetti), Mexes, Juan, Tonetto; Perrotta, De Rossi, Brighi; Baptista; Vucinic (89’ Taddei), Totti (75’ Menez). Coach: Spalletti.
Lazio (4-3-3): Carrizo; Lichtsteiner, Siviglia, Rozenhal, Radu; Brocchi (81’ Dabo), Ledesma, Mauri (59’ Meghni); Pandev, Rocchi (84’ Inzaghi), Zarate. Coach: Rossi.
BOOKED: Tonetto, Perrotta 2x (R), Lichtsteiner, Radu, Ledesma 2x (L)
SENT OFF: Ledesma 66’, Perrotta 86’