Lazio vs Roma: The Eternal Struggle

01/12/16

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This weekend sees a feast of marquee matches across the European leagues, with standout fixtures pitting Manchester City against Chelsea, Barcelona against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund against Borussia Monchengladbach, to name but three. However, the latest Kitbag blog sees our attention switch to Italy, where SS Lazio and AS Roma will contest the season’s first Derby della Capitale at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. The biennial fixture in the capital city has been a staple of the ground since 1953, providing a worthy platform for many of the game’s greatest stars. As Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio team and Luciano Spalletti’s Roma prepare to go again, Kitbag is proud to present six of the best Rome derbies from the modern era.

1992     Lazio 1 Roma 1

With Paul Gascoigne’s 1991 transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Lazio stirring British interest in Italy’s national league, the launch of Channel 4′s Football Italia series in 1992 was timely to say the least; bringing Serie A’s biggest matches live and direct to the UK on a weekly basis. At the tail end of recovery from a 16-month injury lay-off, Gascogine had been absent from the programme’s 6th September launch (a 3-3 draw between his Lazio side and visitors Sampdoria), making his bow a fortnight later, on what was billed as ‘Gazza Speciale Day’. However, the England World Cup star would truly arrive on the Italian scene in his maiden Derby della Capitale; netting a dramatic headed equaliser in the 86th minute and celebrating passionately behind the Roma goal. Gazza’s time in Serie A would have its peaks and troughs. However, few in attendance or watching on TV could forget 29th November 1992, as this enduring character of the beautiful game made his first indelible mark in the Eternal City.

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1994     Lazio 1 Roma 0

A classic cast of characters took to the Stadio Olimpico stage on 6th March 1994 for a hard-fought, albeit low-scoring affair, as was consistent with the division’s watertight defences of the time. Despite losing goalscorer Claudio Caniggia to a doping ban, Roma’s squad of 1994 was spearheaded by another Argentinian attacker in Abel Balbo, supported by the likes of Brazil’s Aldair (a World Cup winner months later) and emerging talent Francesco Totti. Lazio meanwhile were able to call upon Serie A luminaries Giuseppe Signori, Pierluigi Casiraghi and Roberto Di Matteo, as well as Croatia’s Alen Bokšić and Dutchman Aron Winter. On the day, it was Signori who provided the difference, scoring what proved to be the winner in only the sixth minute of play. The 1-0 victory was Lazio’s first of the 1990s, snapping a streak of seven successive draws in the derby and keeping their rivals out of the ensuing season’s UEFA Cup.

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1998     Lazio 3 Roma 3

Lazio had beaten their Rome rivals four times on the bounce when the two sides locked horns on 29th November 1998. What resulted that day was one of the most entertaining Derby della Capitale fixtures in memory, as Sven-Göran Eriksson’s title-chasers came from a goal adrfit to amass a 3-1 lead, only for Zdeněk Zeman’s resilient Roma to mount a stirring comeback. The Giallorossi had started strongly, creating a number of chances before Marco Delvecchio got on the end of a dangerous through ball to dot the first ink on the scoresheet. Roma’s advantage would last barely three minutes, as future Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini connected with the equaliser, before a purple period around the hour mark established the home side’s advantage. First, Mancini showed sizable skill and awareness to flick home a Siniša Mihajlović free-kick. Then, Marcello Salas joined the party, converting from the penalty spot. However, Roman retribution would be forthcoming, with Roma hitting back through (current Sassuolo boss) Eusebio Di Francesco and the ever-invaluable Totti to restore parity. Fuelling the drama even further, Roma would only be denied a stunning victory by the linesman’s offside flag.

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1999     Roma 3 Lazio 1

With the Stadio Olimpico’s six-goal thriller still fresh in mind, Roma’s first Derby della Capitale victory in almost five years (and their first ‘home’ win for over two decades) would go on to have grave implications for their opponents’ title challenge. Leaders Lazio entered 11th April 1999 in hot pursuit of the Scudetto and victory in this derby would have extended their lead over Milan to seven points, with six games to play. Instead, Roma upset the form book emphatically, thanks in no small part to Delvecchio’s first-half brace. The opener was particularly stunning, as the forward eluded his man with fine footwork, before firing into the roof of the net. While Christian Vieri’s tap-in kept Lazio in the hunt, the final minute then saw Totti bundle home Roma’s controversial and decisive third goal; shrugging off cries of handball to condemn the Biancocelesti to a devastating derby defeat. With Milan winning all of their final six fixtures, Lazio would miss out on Serie A honours by a single, agonising point.

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2002     Lazio 1 Roma 5

10th March 2002 saw rampant Roma romp to their biggest Derby della Capitale win in a generation, and the biggest in their history as the fixture’s ‘visiting’ team. Inspired by midfielder Totti, striker Vincenzo Montella was the star of the show, helping himself to a record-breaking four goals in a Stadio Olimpico derby, a feat without equal before or since. Tormenting the great Alessandro Nesta with a standout striking performance, Montella edged in front of his Italy teammate to nod in the Roma opener, before capitalising on a rebound from Totti’s inquisitive effort to double the Giallorossi’s advantage. Heading home in the 37th minute to complete his first-half hat-trick, Montella made history in the second half by way of his famous fourth, a powerful blast from distance that cannoned into the top corner. The final word however on this dream day for Roma belonged to talisman Totti, who lifted a sublime chip over Lazio goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi to wrap up their landmark 5-1 win.

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2005      Lazio 3 Roma 1

Finally, the mid-2000s was a volatile period in the Derby della Capitale annals, with Lazio vs Roma on 6th January 2005 typical of this tumultuous time. Less than 12 months earlier, an infamous encounter between the rivals had been abandoned due to rioting and this 2005 rematch was similarly explosive, as the worst of Roman derby passions spilled over. Embroiled in a bitter spat with proud Roma clubman Totti, Lazio’s Paulo di Canio courted significant controversy in the run-up to this fixture, yet the Italian’s talents on the field were never in dispute; affirmed by the former West Ham United and Charlton Athletic maverick’s sublime right-footed volley that broke the deadlock. While Roma responded through Antonio Cassano, a smart second-half strike from Cesar helped the brilliant Biancocelesti reign in Rome for the first time in almost five years; Tommaso Rocchi’s tap-in sealing their 3-1 derby day triumph. With a kaleidoscope of colour enveloping the stands and a lifetime of competition fuelling the on-pitch passion, all eyes will be on the Stadio Olimpico this weekend, but where will the Roman bragging rights lie come Sunday evening? The scene is set; let the games begin. AC

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Photography

  1. 1992 by Action Images
  2. 1998 by Stuart Franklin, Action Images
  3. 1999 by Alex Morton, Action Images
  4. 2002 by Michael Regan, Action Images
  5. 2005 by Michael Regan, Action Images
  6. Flags by Michael Regan, Action Images

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