Roma rediscovers form beating Lazio 3-1 in Rome derby
ROME (AP) — Roma’s management has been pleading for patience from its disgruntled fans all season.
After selling off the backbone of the squad — goalkeeper Alisson to Liverpool, midfielder Radja Nainggolan to rival Inter Milan, and beloved defensive midfielder Kevin Strootman to Marseille — the company line was that it would just take some time before the team regains its stride as new players develop chemistry with those who remained.
Right on cue, Roma turned in its most convincing performance of the season on Saturday as the Giallorossi beat rival Lazio 3-1 in the Rome derby.
“This performance means the team hasn’t lost its identity or idea of football,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said. “I saw the difference in their faces and their eyes today, and it showed on the pitch.”
Aleksandar Kolarov scored the winner from a free kick midway through the second half. The goal, plus his score for Lazio in 2009, made him the second player in derby history to score for both clubs. The first was Arne Selmonson, who played for the clubs in the 1950s.
Roma substitute Lorenzo Pellegrini opened the scoring with a clever backheel flick a minute before halftime, and Ciro Immobile equalized for Lazio four minutes before Kolarov’s goal following a Roma defensive lapse.
Federico Fazio, who was to blame for Immobile’s goal, sealed it for Roma with a header following a free kick.
Roma’s second victory in four days — including a 4-0 win over promoted Frosinone on Wednesday — gives the team some much-needed confidence ahead of a Champions League match against Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday.
A surprise semifinalist in the Champions League last season, Roma was thoroughly outclassed by three-time defending champion Real Madrid in a 3-0 loss in its group opener.
After a stuttering start in Serie A, Roma is back in the fight for the Champions League places, sitting sixth. It is one point behind Lazio, which had won four straight, and two behind fourth-placed Inter Milan.
After the fifth round, Di Francesco ordered the team to sleep at the training ground for several days.
“The decision to put the team together was to shake off fear. We reacted as men today, which was what I asked for,” Di Francesco said. “We might cling to the market, form, or any other excuse, but the fact remains this is the same team I had last season and we hadn’t been transformed so much.”
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf