Roma claimed the bragging rights over rivals Lazio after a solid performance in the Derby della Capitale.
Two goals early in the second half were enough to hold off Lazio, as the Biancocelesti eventually pulled one back.
Both teams came into this game in good shape after the international break. The Coaches, Eusebio Di Francesco and Simone Inzaghi, have both convinced so far and expectations are high at the moment.
Words: Charles Onwuakpa
Roma confirmed the regular starting XI: Radja Nainggolan was declared fit after being in doubt before the game. The Belgian midfielder took his regular spot in Roma’s 4-3-3.
On the other hand, the league's top scorer, Ciro Immobile, overcame his own injury issues and lead Lazio’s attacking unit as the Biancocelesti shaped up in a 3-5-1-1 system.
Roma keep possession
After an early Immobile goal was disallowed for an offside position, Roma settled in possession looking to use their wing chains and form passing triangles to reach the final third.
Lazio sat deep in a 5-3-1-1 defensive block: Luis Alberto man marked Daniele De Rossi, while Immobile would trigger the ball-playing defender to move wide, negating access into central areas.
This meant that Lucas Leiva guaranteed defensive cover in between the lines as Lazio had a spare man in centre midfield.
The Biancocelesti’s idea was to attack in space, unleashing Immobile and his pace on the counterattack.
Roma attack down the left wing
Roma mainly attacked on the left wing: Aleksandar Kolarov and Diego Perotti interchanged positions well and were always on the move to beat the marker and deliver a cross in the box for Dzeko.
In the image above, we can see a two vs two on the wing, and a potential three vs three in the penalty area but, luckily for Lazio, Marco Parolo intercepts Kolarov’s pass.
Roma built their best chances in the first half on that flank, and Edin Dzeko nearly scored on a couple of occasions. Bastos, in particular, was the weakest point of Lazio’s defence: for this reason, Roma overloaded his side with Dzeko moving wide or Kevin Strootman making deep attacking runs to create space for Perotti to cut inside as an inside forward.
It was no surprise that both of Roma’s goals resulted from the Angolan defenders mistakes: in the 48th minute he gave away a cheap penalty with a clumsy foul on Kolarov; a couple of minutes later he was caught in possession and gifted Roma their second goal.
Milinkovic-Savic vs Nainggolan
Lazio found it difficult to play out of the back due to Roma’s intense high press. Their targetman, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, wasn't as dominant as usual in the air; this made it difficult for Lazio to penetrate in the final third through second and third balls. Whatsmore, by playing so high up the pitch, the Serbian left a lot of space behind him which was well used by Nainggolan.
The Belgian was the man of the match: he played in space and with intensity. driving forward with the ball and closing down on opponents. The goal was indeed the icing on the cake of his amazing display.
In the previous image we can see an example of how much space the Belgian had during attacking transitions.
After the second goal, Lazio became more direct. Inzaghi brought on Jordan Lukaku and Nani to replace Lucas Leiva and Senad Lulic. The Biancocelesti, now shaped in a 4-4-1-1 shape, started creating chances and pulled one back after Manolas gave away a cheap penalty.
Nevertheless, they only managed 2 shots on target: Roma were rock solid at the back, negating space for Immobile and closing down opponents quickly. Di Francesco sought for more cover by bringing on Gerson and Bruno Peres, which resulted into a 5-4-1 tactical switch. The home side held on to the result and got their 33rd win in the Roman derby.
This was a very interesting game with two good teams. Roma are now fourth in the league with a game in hand against Sampdoria.
Di Francesco’s men will now look forward to keep the momentum going when they face Atletico Madrid in the Champions League tomorrow. Lazio, on the other hand, were unable to get a tenth successive win in all competitions, but can console themselves with Immobile’s fantastic form [15 goals in 12 games] so far this season.