Something had to give. These two bitter foes, separated in the table by a single point, showcasing some of the division’s finest football went head-to-head.
While the pre-match talk of a classic didn’t completely ensue, it was a final result which confirmed the calcio viewer’s burning suspicion: Roma are no longer dark horses and are well and truly in the mix for the Scudetto. Both players and Coach deserve immense credit, considering they were tipped to finish outside of the Champions League places by most. Sure, the season is still relatively young, but Eusebio Di Francesco has overseen what was a quiet revolution, to now rubbing shoulders with the title favourites. The Giallorossi certainly don’t look out of place.
The match winner on the night proved to be midfielder and heartbeat of the side Radja Nainggolan. The Belgian picked up a groin injury on international duty, but is the sort of character needed in a frenetic Derby which was typically lively. Quite simply, without that driving force, Roma are a different team and Nainggolan delivered once more.
On this occasion, Simone Inzaghi’s blend of experience and youth came up desperately short, but there are many reasons to be optimistic for Lazio. The Biancocelesti have earned the right to consider themselves as equals to their neighbours, and there is no longer an inferiority complex or fear factor on show.
This year is important for both clubs. It’s the second term at the helm for Inzaghi and his troops’ upward trajectory will undoubtedly continue to soar with a full season already under their belts. Lazio are probably ahead of schedule and it’s a measure of how far they’ve come that the 41-year-old will be mightily disappointed to lose. Whether it’s champions Juventus, leaders Napoli or rivals Roma, there is a genuine belief they can secure the win, and Milan know all too well what a Lazio drubbing feels like.
The Biancocelesti chief continues to impress and deserves the plaudits coming his way. Inzaghi’s work has not gone unnoticed and has even been mentioned as a possible replacement for Juventus boss Max Allegri, flattering the Piacenza native in the process.
Once the dust settles, the defeat can be put down to a blip and something to learn from. On another occasion and with a fully fit Ciro Immobile, the final outcome could have been different.
The outlook for Roma is understandably promising. Of course, there was the inevitable siege on goal towards the end of the match, but on the whole, the Lupi dominated and managed the game comfortably. The maturity shown and the sheer ease with which they have adapted to the new methods of Di Francesco could prove priceless at the end of the season. We only have to look at Milan’s teething troubles and position in the standings as an example.
Di Francesco and Inzaghi were in familiar territory, having experienced the Derby della Capitale as players, and the win will be particularly special as a result. Crucially, the former Sassuolo Coach has now laid down a marker on his opposite number in what promises to be just as fascinating a duel off the pitch as it is on. The two men are Italy’s leading managerial prospects and a battle for supremacy, which is in its infancy, is sure to have plenty of twists and turns as both jostle for the ultimate honour.