Conclusions are often sought after fixtures that have the potential to shape a season. Narratives are chased, and threads of potential stories are pulled, but they don’t always deliver anything clear. That was the case again on Serie A Matchday 27, when Lazio emerged as narrow 1-0 winners from a fiery Derby della Capitale against AS Roma. The win allowed them to complete a first Serie A double over the Giallorossi since 2011/12.
Both sides have been more than just a little bit funny this season – as has just about everybody other than runaway leaders Napoli – and each of the two capital clubs is just as capable as the other at delivering something ridiculous or sublime.
Lazio are a prime example. They won the season’s first Derby della Capitale back in November, only to be hammered away at Juventus a couple of weeks later and then failed to beat Lecce and Empoli after the World Cup break. They might light work of an Atalanta side who were doing well in October, and then lost 3-1 t home to Salernitana in their next Serie A outing.
Even more recently, the Biancocelesti hammered outgoing champions AC Milan 4-0, they then failed to win any of their next four in all competitions, drawing with Fiorentina and Verona and losing to both Juventus and Atalanta.
The trend has continued throughout the season, so their recent 1-0 win over Napoli should have given AS Roma encouragement, knowing that a slip was due. But those slips already came. They lost 2-1 twice to AZ Alkmaar to crash out of Europe either side of a goalless draw at Bologna, and it looked as though the goals had dried up. Ciro Immobile was out, and still is out despite being named on the bench for the Rome Derby, and Maurizio Sarri’s side just aren’t the same without him – and how could they be?
Managing the moment
On Matchday 27, though, Sarri’s troops simply managed the occasion better than Roma did. Without Jose Mourinho on the sidelines through suspension, the Giallorossi allowed themselves to be played by Lazio, and they fell for every trap that was set for them early on.
Roger Ibanez was more guilty than anybody, naively picking up two yellow cards and his second was one that Sergej Milinkovic-Savic cleverly bought. The celebrations on the pitch as Ibanez was shown red, from Milinkovic-Savic and teammates, showed that Lazio felt they had got one over their Eternal City rivals. And they had.
But Lazio’s struggles for goals weren’t aided by facing fewer men on the other side. They knocked but Roma stood relatively firm. After all, if Roma have proven anything this season it’s that they’re able to battle with anybody. It was only a good piece of work from Mattia Zaccagni that allowed the Biancocelesti to get themselves in front, and that it kissed the post on its way into the bottom corner was representative of the fine margins the derby was dealing win.
No lessons learned
As enjoyable occasion as the ill-tempered Rome Derby was, it didn’t exactly tell us much about either team’s chances going forward.
Lazio have always been capable of stepping up in the big games – AC Milan, early-season Atalanta and Napoli just some examples – but the real test of their top-four hopes will likely come against Monza, Juventus and Spezia in the weeks to come.