Napoli-Juventus was likely a little more intense and significant, but it already got extensive coverage in another column, so the nod for match of the round goes to the Derby between Roma and Lazio, which was not exactly one of the ages but always carries gargantuan magnitude.
La Lupa came into the match looking to build on last week’s easy win over Genoa, which had interrupted a two-game slump, while the Eagles were riding a 11-match winning streak that had commenced back in late October. They were coming off a rout against Sampdoria.
Paulo Fonseca tweaked his regular XI to make it more defensive and counter the opponent’s fortes since he kept Aleksandar Kolarov and Alessandro Florenzi on the bench to field Davide Santon and Leonardo Spinazzola as a more conservative fullbacks’ duo. Cengiz Under and Justin Kluivert manned the offensive flanks and Bryan Cristante took Amadou Diawara’s spot in the midfield due to injury. Joaquin Correa and Luis Alberto both recovered from their ailments and got the start in Lazio’s standard formation, with Luiz Felipe getting the nod over Patric in the only real doubt, only to be taken out at half time since he was booked.
The contest was not super eventful as both sides were careful of not exposing themselves and was decided by two goalkeeping mistakes. The Magica generally had the upper hand throughout the ninety minutes, with the enemies looking for quick forays as per usual.
At the 26th minute, Thomas Strakosha came out uncertainly on a long ball and was beaten to it by Edin Dzeko, who knocked it on goal with a soft header, showing great feel for the goal as he aimed in the right direction without looking. The Giallorossi could have made it two nothing shortly thereafter but the goalie and a sliding defender stopped a threatening shot by Cengiz Under at the end of a fast-break.
The Biancocelesti equalized out of the blue at the 34th minute: on a corner kick, Santon lofted into the air with a header on the far post, Pau Lopez erroneously punched it inbounds and bumped into Chris Smalling on the goal-line, ultimately failing to clear it and the opportunistic Francesco Acerbi nudged it home. In the final moments of the first half, Lorenzo Pellegrini hit the post with a superb curled shot.
After intermission, Roma were awarded a penalty as Justin Kluivert and Patric’s legs got tangled up but VAR reversed the decision as the forward appeared to initiate the contact. Strakosha almost made another mess with a poor punch, but rejected Dzeko’s subsequent attempt. He rose to the occasion few minutes later as well: Under waltzed his way through defenders but his shot was blocked by an adversary, Dzeko finished from close range but the goalie was in perfect position to bat it away. The Biancocelesti had the final chance of the game on a daisy-cutter by Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, his lone noticeable action of the game, but it was just wide.
Lazio fail to take full advantage of Juventus and Inter not winning this week, but they are potentially above the Nerazzurri and two points behind the Old Lady, should they win the make-up game in mid-February against Verona. Roma have a narrow lead over Atalanta as far as the fourth place is concerned.
The clash generated a limited fantasy production: Acerbi grabbed four points, Dzeko one fewer because he was booked, Bryan Cristante two for the lob that led to the first goal.
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