Roma washed out by thunderous Lazio
Lazio defeated Roma by a score of 3-2 Sunday in one of football’s most widely recognized derbies. This was the third consecutive victory against their cross-city rivals, and like usual, quite eventful.
Prior to the match, fans from the opposing sides clashed on a bridge outside the Olimpico. Explosions were heard as a molotov cocktail was thrown over a police line dividing the troublemakers.
As for the match itself, Roma began with plenty of energy and dominated play for the opening five minutes until it was briefly suspended due to a power outage that shut off all the lights and screens in the stadium. Thousands of fans jokingly tried to compensate by lifting their lighter flames in the stands to provide light for the short period before power was restored and play resumed.
The dynamics of the match, which started under typically dry conditions, changed dramatically only moments after Erik Lamela’s ninth-minute headed strike for Roma.
Thunderstorms turned the Olimpico into something like a bowl of soup. Puddles littered the pitch and a waterfall of rain blinded the players. Roma’s quick passing and forward runs were halted noticeably as they seemed to retreat under the barrage of falling water, while Lazio gained confidence and exploited the Roman uncertainties.
Speed, power, and perseverance were rewarded as Lazio charged forward and poured the attack on a Roman side that seemed to sweat fear. Even still, not many shots were taken.
Before long, the rain made its presence felt on the score line. Antonio Candreva’s long-range free kick directed straight at the Roman back-up keeper, Mauro Goicoechea, unexpectedly slipped off of his extended fists and into the back of the goal to tie the match at 1.
As the ball travelled toward the goal, it was possible to see the keeper squinting to keep track of the trajectory under the heavy rain. The rain in this case doubtlessly contributed to what looked like a horrendous error for a player who otherwise performed quite well.
Minutes later, as Lazio continued to grow in confidence, Anderson Hernanes attempted a shot from outside of Roma’s penalty area which was noticeably misdirected and overpowered. Again, Mother Nature intervened.
It is possible to see from the replays that Hernanes’ shot rolled along the ground and crashed through a series of deep puddles that formed as a result of the rain. The shot slowed considerably and turned into a convenient pass for the advancing Miroslav Klose to direct on goal.
Without ever doubting Klose’s brilliance in trapping the ball and finishing calmly, it would be safe to say that Hernanes got away with one and Roma paid the price.
To make matters worse for Roma, Daniele De Rossi picked up a red card for hitting Mauri in the face while trying to liberate himself from a bookable shirt-tugging contest. The replay shows that De Rossi may not have intentionally hit Mauri in the face, but that contact was in fact made.
Mauri’s embellished fall to the ground attracted enough attention to get De Rossi ejected, and remind ‘Captain Future’ – as the Roman faithful call him – that in a game this heated, it is absolutely necessary to maintain his concentration and avoid making such mistakes.
Early in the second half, Ivan Piris was victimized as a ball clumsily smacked off of his head and into the path of the advancing Stefano Mauri, who finished easily and put Lazio up 3-1. Yet another error due to a mental lapse punished Roma.
The events of this match point to two separate truths about the squads involved:
1) Lazio are a great squad. They are physically and mentally strong and play with determination. They are not put off by rain and puddles. Their key players, Klose and Hernanes, come through for them consistently. Above all, they stay concentrated for 90 minutes.
2) Roma are a great squad. But they are mentally weak and lack consistency. They often forget that a game lasts 90 minutes and they tend to lose games that they were once leading – three times in the last four games, all by a score of 3-2, and five times overall this season. They were put off by the rain, allowing a more aggressive Lazio side to completely overrun them once the weather changed, and Roma made a series of costly errors because of it.
Roma cannot continue to break down before the 90 minutes are up or allow rain to interfere with their drive to win a match if they are to be taken seriously in their aspirations to become a major force in European football.
The fans’ are losing their patience and coach Zdenek Zeman will have plenty of inspiring to do if he intends to keep his job in the new year. No one will accept that Roma have been unlucky this often.
There comes a time where a team must make its own luck. Take Juventus, for example.
Follow Riccardo Lo Monaco on Twitter: @kicknut