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The city is eternal but coming second doesn’t have to be

The Curva Sud on Monday morning

The Curva Sud on Monday morning

At the end of Monday morning’s Derby della Capitale, some Lazio fans on Twitter were trumpeting the 0-0 draw as a great result. It was tempting to make fun of them for their low horizons, but in reality perhaps it’s us who need to grow up a little bit. Maybe it’s not the draw itself the burini were so pleased with. Maybe they knew they had dealt our Coppa Italia chances a serious blow…

As far as the game was concerned, if you are one of those frightful bores who thinks anything that ends 0-0 is the sporting equivalent of a week’s holiday in Glenfield, I implore you to watch it. Right now. Right this second. Stop reading this, drop everything, go here, download the game and watch it because exciting doesn’t even begin to describe it. It was thrilling, pulsating, end-to-end and played at a furious pace from start to finish. This was not your stereotypical Italian game of catenaccio. This was Italian football of the 21st century at its blistering best.

Ok, there were no goals, and I am certainly not celebrating that for its own sake. Of course I would have loved nothing more than to see Roma score and in so doing hand me and my Romanista friends bragging rights for another 8 months or so. But the result was adequate enough. Coming off of last season when we lost derby one, drew derby two, and lost the Coppa Italia final to the mortal enemy (and don’t even mention 2011/12 when they did the double over us for the first time in 14 years…), a 2-0 win on aggregate is improvement enough for me thanks very much.

On the other hand, of course Monday morning had its disappointments as well. A lot of people think if you dominate possession and chances but don’t score you somehow win some kind of moral victory. I don’t really buy that. The whole point of football is to get the little round thing in to the rectangular netted thing at the other end of the grassy paddock thing. If you can’t do that you have no moral anything. Roma played really well in a lot of ways but failed at football’s most basic aim. There are a couple of reasons for that as I see it.

One is Lazio defended stoutly, credit where it’s due, but they also played the game pretty brutally at times. The wicked grin on André Dias’s face after some of his reckless challenges gave me pause to make a mental note never to find myself alone in a dimly lit alley with him as long as I live… *cough* psychopath *cough*.

Dias Tackle

André Dias with one of his more subtle challenges on Totti…

The other big reason our attack lacked potency is the sad fact that Totti was rather ordinary, unusually for him in a big match. Cue the usual claims that he’s getting too old, and I suppose he is. But I don’t believe (or maybe I just don’t want to believe) he played badly just because he’s getting on a bit. He was poor in my guesstimation because he’s still recovering from a two month injury lay-off that he hasn’t really been right since. It takes a 37 year old longer to recover from these things than a 20 year old. Even though he’s been back since 17 December, I still think it will maybe take another game or two for him to wind back up again.

The big problem for us, as I see it, is looking ahead to tomorrow. Speaking of 37 year olds and what aging does to you, I have to say (being pretty much the same age as Totti), this getting older lark has changed the way I view derbies a little bit. I watched, with some amusement, all the Twitteristi winding themselves up about the game beforehand and talking about how they couldn’t sleep the night before and the like… Of course it still means a lot to me, enough for me to get out of bed at 3am and watch it live, and the match itself had me on the edge of my seat, but for some reason I have stopped being quite so desperate to beat Lazio as I used to be…

I feel like I have grown up a little bit, and maybe Roma has too. We have much bigger fish to fry than our country cousins these days. We are in the running, albeit with only an outside chance in my opinion, for lo scudetto, and tomorrow morning we have a pivotal Coppa Italia semi-final second leg against Napoli IN Napoli that we only hold the slimmest of advantages going into (we won the home leg 3-2). Winning and losing tomorrow could well be the difference between yet another trophyless season and winning something.

After such a frenetically fast paced and physical derby where the players battled each other to a standstill and left it all out on the field, as they should, I hope they are going to be ready for what awaits them just 72 hours later… I know this is sacrilege, but maybe we should have rested a few players. Totti chief amongst them. In hindsight, we would have only been risking a point.

For Lazio, it has always been the same. Beating us is more important than breathing. The reverse is also the case for most of our fans too. We can move beyond that now though, can’t we? We should be better than that. Above it. With our new owners and excellent squad, we are truly a big club and it’s probably time to drop the provincial mentality and start acting like we belong at the cool kids table. Beating Lazio will always be great. But winning silverware and/or qualifying for the Champions League should trump everything.

Has il Derby cost us la Coppa? I really, really hope not.

Categories: Roma/Italian Calcio

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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