By David Mosse
One of the more enticing Rome derbies in recent memory lived up to the billing with 5 goals and 2 red cards, despite a driving rainstorm that made the pitch almost unplayable at times. In the end, Lazio boss Vladimir Petkovic was celebrating after the Biancocelesti came away with a morale boosting 3-2 victory over city rivals Roma.
The debate in Italy all week centered around which side needed to win more with Lazio 2 points ahead in the standings, but coming off a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Catania. It was Roma that displayed most of the intent early on, taking the lead through a powerful header from Erik Lamela, but Lazio had already overturned matters by halftime thanks to goals from Antonio Candreva and Miroslav Klose.
Candreva benefitted from a grotesque mistake by Roma backup goalkeeper Mauro Goicoechea, while Klose was on the receiving end of a pass from Hernanes, as Lazio’s two match-winners combined. When Stefano Mauri pounced on a poor clearance from Ivan Piris early in the second half to score Lazio’s third, Petkovic’s side appeared in firm control, especially with Roma already down to 10 men.
Daniele De Rossi had received his marching orders after connecting on a punch to the face of Mauri during first-half stoppages, but the Lazio midfielder was sent off later on when a handling offence earned him his second yellow card. Miralem Pjanic set up a wild finish with a free kick from long distance that somehow floated over the head of Federico Marchetti and into the back of the net.
And Roma very nearly equalized through Pablo Osvaldo who fired into the side-netting following a lovely crossfield pass from Michael Bradley. The comeback fell short, and Lazio’s players were jubilant at the final whistle, though the match served as further proof neither side defends well enough to mount a serious title challenge. Both should provide plenty of entertainment the rest of the way, however.
With the victory, the Biancocelesti remained four points behind Napoli for the final Champions League spot, which represents the most realistic goal for this season. The Azzurri were involved in a thriller themselves, fighting back twice from a goal down to snatch a 4-2 away win over Genoa. Edinson Cavani followed up his remarkable midweek Europa League performance with another goal, while youngster Lorenzo Insigne found the back of the net as well.
Inter-Milan, meanwhile, came crashing back down to earth with a 3-2 defeat at Atlanta on Sunday that brought to an end a 10-match winning streak in all competitions. Andrea Stramaccioni felt his side deserved better, but the Nerazzurri paid the price for slack defending with German Dennis bagging a brace, despite squandering a number of gilt-edged opportunities throughout the match.
Antonio Cassano looked lively early on before tiring in the second half, and Inter, Napoli and Lazio must all decide how much effort is worth placing in the Europa League moving forward with none of the three boasting particularly deep squads. Juventus might face the same dilemma in the second half of the campaign if the Old Lady finishes third in its Champions League group, but the response to last weekend’s stunning defeat to Inter has been impressive.
Juventus followed up the midweek demolition of Danish side Nordsjælland with a 6-1 victory at Pescara on Saturday. Fabio Quagliarella has emerged as the team’s most consistent goal-scorer and notched a hat-trick, including a spectacular over-head kick from a corner, while Arturo Vidal, Kwadwo Asamoah and Sebastian Giovinco each found the back of the net.
Elsewhere, Udinese salvaged a 2-2 draw away to Chievo with Gabriele Angella managing his first career brace, including a stoppage-time equalizer. After a miserable start to the campaign, the Bianconeri have at least crept into the top half of the table, while Torino earned a 1-0 home win over Bologna in a relegation battle settled by Danilo D’Ambrosio’s header midway through the second half.
Some Other Thoughts:
*Alexandre Pato continues his tragic decline as a player, despite scoring an important Champions League goal against Malaga. The Brazilian turned in a listless performance on Sunday, as AC Milan suffered its fourth home defeat of the campaign, falling to Fiorentina 3-1. Pato was promptly replaced at halftime, but not before ballooning a penalty kick over the crossbar late in the first half.
The 23-year old no longer resembles the exciting talent who flourished in his first season and a half with the Rossoneri before tactical changes and injury problems began to undermine his progression. Milan has turned down lucrative offers for the young striker in the past, but it is difficult to envision him still being viewed as part of the solution, and a move in January could certainly be in the cards.
*Milan is vowing to stick by Massimo Allegri for the time being, and another manager hanging on for dear life is Sampdoria’s Ciro Ferrara. The Blucerchiati have dropped their last seven league games with the opening round victory over the Rossoneri now a distant memory. The latest defeat came at the hands of Palermo who notched a 2-0 home win on Sunday thanks to a pair of goals from 18-year old Argentinean sensation Paulo Dybala.
*Cagliari’s new Is Arenas Stadium remains a source of controversy with the latest episode taking place this weekend ahead of the clash with Catania. It was announced the night before the match the venue would finally be open to all, but local authorities later deemed the main stand still unsafe, and hoards of supporters with tickets were turned away at the door. The match fittingly ended in a scoreless draw.