By Jonathan Gold
A lot of complete trash gets written about rivalry games. See if any of this sounds familiar: “Oh, the form book goes out the window when these two teams meet!” “You’d have to say it would pretty much make their season to beat these hated rivals!” “It’s always a tempestuous affair when these two teams meet!”
Ugh. What a great way to ruin a game as brilliant as the recent Rome derby. Nevertheless.
Fortunately for you, gentle reader, I’ve never seen the Rome derby in my life, so I was unable to write any utter bilge about how exciting it was all going to be and turn you off completely. I watch my share of Italian (and German and English, a little Spanish) soccer and I obviously know that Roma-Lazio is one of the worst-tempered rivalries in the world this side of the Old Firm, but I’ve never managed to catch it.
Next year, I’m going to do my best.
It has to be said, in fairness, that it wasn’t a completely brilliant game from a pure soccer perspective. The cliche about “form going out the window” for this derby match hasn’t really been true in recent years, as Lazio have mostly played like garbage against their crosstown nemeses. And it absolutely held to that this time, displaying a lot of willingness to get to physical grips with Roma but little creativity or organization. Roma wasn’t fantastic, but it thoroughly deserved the win, despite allowing a poor Lazio to create several chances, including one from
Floccari after a nice ball in from Hernanes that he should have at least gotten on target.
As if to highlight the importance of that miss, AS Roma superfan and club idol Francesco Totti thumped a hard, low free kick under Muslera in the Lazio goal about five minutes after and Lazio never really looked like they had a response.
Well, OK, they never really looked like they had a response outside of “kick people up in the air.” As you may have heard, it was as bad-tempered as anything, and even before Radu headbutted Simplicio about three feet directly in front of the referee (moron), Matuzalem should have hit the showers for a really awful foot to the face of Totti as he sprawled on the ground. Ledesma also saw red for – I think, it was tough to tell at the time – arguing with the ref.
Simplicio was also molested, more importantly, when through on goal, handing Roma the penalty that nobody but Totti was going to take. He crashed it into the roof of the net and (cliche alert) the place went insane.
From a neutral perspective, Lazio did a great job making themselves look like a terrible soccer team with a bunch of dirty players, and it was pretty nice to see them get whipped single-handily by the guy who may be the single biggest hate figure among a fan base noted for its number of hate figures. (Another big one is black people, even when they play for Lazio. What a classy bunch.)
Even though the soccer itself wasn’t massively impressive, it was a great one in terms of spectacle and competition. Heroes, villains, Italian people losing their minds; what’s not to like? It probably beat the hell out of watching Inter’s title challenge take a drunken, jelly-legged step backwards with a 1-1 draw at Brescia.
Nevertheless there were a couple games of note – Fiorentina actually won a game away from home, and Udinese reminded us why we’ll all be sad when they cough up too many goals and fail to make the Champions League by whomping Cagliari 4-0.
I frequently disagree with Richard Williams, but this is actually a brilliant piece. While I question, somewhat, the actual importance of who wears the armband in the modern game, Williams’ point about the apparent philosophy behind Wenger’s recent captaincy choices is a tough one to disagree with. I still think the “Wenger out” people are largely short-sighted fools, but I can’t bring myself to agree with some of Le Boss’ decisions over the past few years.