Roma won la stracittadina and kept up a sequence that has seen Lazio fail to win as the away side since 1998, a failure that may well derail their season at a crucial point
As newsflashes go, this one was right up there with Dog Bites Man and Bear Makes Do Without Proper Facilities In Woods. Roma win the derby? Yeah, tell me something I don't know. This, after all, was the fifth time in a row that the Giallorossi had won la stracittadina. Despite the fact the teams share a stadium, Lazio have not won when playing as the away side since 1998.
Throw in the fact that their manager, Edy Reja, has never beaten Roma with any of the clubs he has coached – losing seven and drawing two of nine attempts prior to the weekend – and it becomes still easier to understand how even the Rome-based Corriere dello Sport wound up making Roma's 2-0 win their second story this morning (albeit still with a significant front-page presence), opting instead to lead with Milan's draw against Bari. Even the inevitable scraps between fans and police seemed low key for this fixture – only six arrests reported this morning after a small group of Lazio supporters threw fireworks at police.
And yet before kick-off no one would have dared to suggest a foregone conclusion. Lazio, after all, were the ones riding high – a team who had faltered at times since the winter break yet who had remained a permanent fixture in the top four since late September. Roma, by contrast, were supposed to be a club in turmoil after their Champions League humiliation in Donetsk. The aftermath of their 3-0 defeat had seen Daniele De Rossi hurling abuse at the Shakhtar bench and Marco Borriello railing at reporters for making him into "the only scapegoat" for the loss.
But while others were losing their heads, Vincenzo Montella kept his. The Roma manager might be new to this – indeed, as more than one newspaper pointed out this week, he was still in nursery when Reja got his first managerial appointment – but he showed wisdom beyond his years by refusing to be too hard on his players. At training he showed them a video of only the first 40 minutes of their defeat – a spell in which they had played decently and earned a penalty – stressing all the things they had done right. Internal rifts were further healed with a team dinner at the end of the week.
Perhaps we should not have been surprised that the only player ever to score four goals in a Rome derby would know how best to approach one. Montella achieved the feat in a 5-1 victory back in March 2002. The only other Roma player to get his name on the scoresheet that day, incidentally, was the same man who found the net for them again this time round.
Few players can feel the derby as intensely as Francesco Totti, a player whose sensibilities as a Roma supporter famously led him to turn down a move to Lazio back when he was just a boy playing for the local side Lodigiani, and yet in recent years there has been a sense that this is a fixture in which he rarely shows his best. Coming into this weekend he was without a derby goal since 2005. No wonder he was reluctant to make promises when approached by fans at Motodays – a motorbike event on Saturday in Rome – who begged him for two goals and a win.
And yet that was precisely what he provided, opening the scoring from a free-kick – just at the moment when Lazio seemed to be gaining the upper hand – before sealing the win with a late penalty. In a game where Lazio's players seemed all too ready to lose their heads – Stefan Radu and Cristian Ledesma were both sent off in the second half, for a preposterously obvious headbutt and dissent respectively – he even managed to keep his despite at one point taking a boot to the face from Matuzalem.
When Totti added to Montella's haul in March 2002 he famously revealed a T-shirt with the slogan "6 unica" (you are unique) – a dedication to his then new squeeze Ilary Blasi. On Sunday he repeated the trick, only this time the message had been amended to "6 sempre unica" (literally 'you are always unique', though in the context perhaps better translated as 'you are still unique'). "On Saturday we had our nine-year anniversary," said Totti. "It's destiny: I scored when we got together and again this time."
Not once in those nine years – or even his previous nine in Roma's first-team before that – had Totti scored two in a derby, but his joy at the feat may still not have matched that of Rosella Sensi, in what should be her family's final match as owners of the club. The sale to the US consortium of Thomas DiBenedetto, who watched at home in Boston with his family, is expected to finally go through this week. Sensi spoke afterwards of how "honoured" she had been to have been at the club.
As for Lazio, they were left with nothing more than a vague sense of injustice over Roma's opener. The goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had allowed Totti's shot to squeeze underneath him but subsequently said he had been dazzled by a laser pointer, a claim that seemed to be supported by TV footage. The referee Paolo Tagliavento had been aware of the laser being shone during warm-ups and told the players that if they told him it was happening during the game he would immediately suspend proceedings, yet Muslera claimed afterwards his shouts to the official had been ignored.
But regardless of the truths of that situation, Lazio had only themselves to blame for the way they lost their heads afterwards – from the sendings off to Matuzalem's petulance. Ledesma and Radu will face suspensions and Matuzalem may do so if the Italian Football Federation chooses to review the video evidence of the stamp on Totti.
With Stephan Lichtsteiner already suspended for their next game, there is a serious risk of allowing what might have been a disappointing but isolated defeat derail their entire season at a crucial point. Another win for Udinese – this time a 4-0 rout of Cagliari – means that Lazio finished the weekend outside the top four. "In the space of 90 minutes Lazio lost the match, their heads and a Champions League place," reflected Davide Stoppini in Gazzetta dello Sport's Roma edition.
The newsflash may have seemed predictable, but the devil, as ever, is in the detail.
• What is there left to say about this Udinese side – brilliant once again against Cagliari, Luigi Garlando expressed the feelings of many in his front-page editorial for Gazzetta, writing: "What a shame it is that we cannot have this splendid Udinese represent us in the Champions League and say to Europe: 'Look how beautiful Italian football is.'" On current form you have to imagine the Zebrette, having broken into the top four at last, will be there next season, but how much of the present side will remain after the inevitable summer transfer window carve-up? Every time Alexis Sánchez scores another goal like this, it becomes harder to imagine that he could stay.
• Despite that miss, Cesena still managed to force a 2-2 draw at home to Juventus, who now seem to be officially at war with the Turin-based newspaper Tuttosport. "They defend Del Neri and attack us?" exclaims the paper's incredulous – and incredible – front-page headline this morning, the editor having seemingly decided that this story is worthy of far more attention than any of the, y'know, football that was played over the weekend.
Juventus had posted a statement on their website a day earlier questioning the newspaper's credibility and criticising its constant reporting of "unreliable" news – a response to a run of eight days in which the paper had named seven different "candidates" to replace the Juventus manager Gigi Del Neri. Below is a snippet from the Tuttosport editor Paolo De Paola's response – which begins on the front page and runs for many more paragraphs inside:
"Yesterday on Juventus's website there appeared a foul statement against our newspaper. Few lines containing falsehoods on Tuttosport to which it is sufficient to reply with a 'no comment'. We are not interested in insults and lies. We will leave that to whoever came up with and wrote that pompous piece. We are just interested in telling our readers how things are. That is to say, the truth. It would be enough just to look at how poor Juve are today to understand everything: a team who are incapable of producing anything and a manager on his way out. This is absolutely the lowest moment of the Bianconeri team. To criticise them is not only a responsible act, but an obligation to our readers."
• "Ciao Scudetto?" (Goodbye Scudetto?) was the front-page headline in Gazzetta on Saturday, after Internazionale could only draw with Brescia. They had led until the 84th minute, but nearly left with nothing after a disastrous cameo from Iván Córdoba, who came on with 25 minutes to play but succeeded in providing an inadvertent assist for Brescia's equaliser before getting sent off as he gave away a penalty in the dying seconds. Thankfully for him Júlio César was able to save Andrea Caracciolo's spot kick, and thankfully for Inter the leaders, Milan, would blow their chance to go seven points clear, themselves scraping a 1-1 draw at home to last-placed Bari after having trailed with less than 10 minutes to play.
• On the face of things Zlatan Ibrahimovic dealt Milan a further blow by getting himself sent off for a jab at Marco Rossi's ribs – an act that could see him suspended for two or three games – but in some ways this might be a good time to be without him. The striker has lost form dramatically over recent weeks, scoring once in nine games – and even then only from the penalty spot against Napoli.
• During Ezequiel Lavezzi's three-game ban, Napoli scored one goal. Yesterday, with him back in the team, they scored three. Funny that.
Results: Brescia 1-1 Inter, Cagliari 0-4 Udinese, Catania 1-0 Sampdoria, Cesena 2-2 Juventus, Chievo 0-1 Fiorentina, Cesena 2-2 Juventus, Chievo 0-1 Fiorentina, Genoa 1-0 Palermo, Lecce 0-1 Bologna, Milan 1-1 Bari, Parma 1-3 Napoli, Roma 2-0 Lazio