Roma 2-0 Lazio: Totti the hero but Pizarro the architect

March 13, 2011

The starting line-ups

Francesco Totti scored a free-kick and a penalty to record Roma’s fifth successive Rome Derby victory.

Vincenzo Montella recalled Totti as the central forward in Roma’s old fluid ’strikerless’ 4-2-3-1 shape. Marco Cassetti was out, so Nicolas Burdisso played at right-back.

Eddy Reja made just one change from last week’s win over Palermo. Stephan Lichsteiner replaced Lionel Scaloni at right-back.

Roma started strongly and finished strongly, though for the majority the game was slightly scrappy and lacked any rhythm. At no point did Lazio assert themselves and dominate, however, so Roma were deserving of the three points – even if it took set-pieces for them to break the deadlock.

Totti false nine

Playing Totti as the ’striker’ made Roma fluid, flexible and exciting in the opening minutes. He came deep and often ended up close to the two holding players, whilst the attacking band of three moved forward and became the highest players up the pitch. Mirko Vucinic stayed wide on the left and looked to take on Lichsteiner, but he rarely got the better of that duel. Menez was quiet.

Lazio responded to Totti’s movement by keeping their defence deep. Totti was rarely followed across the pitch in open play, which meant his runs didn’t really create much space for his teammates – that explained why Roma were flexible without being dangerous or looking threatening in front of goal.

Pizarro dictates

The main man was David Pizarro, who was always available for a pass and dictated play at the start. Roma had been instructed to work their left flank (particularly looking to play in Vucinic) and Pizarro played a couple of excellent balls out to that flank, with John Arne Riise getting forward on the overlap. Pizarro also came close to a goal, with a thumping 30-yard drive that hit the bar.

Lazio were poor in the first half. Their gameplan was to play on the break, but their transitions from defence to attack were terrible. It wasn’t clear what Hernanes was doing – he didn’t provide much of a defensive presence, which contributed to Roma overrunning Lazio in the centre, nor was he in a position to start quick breaks. His positioning didn’t seem to make any sense.

That said, Lazio’s two best moments came from Hernanes – although tellingly, it was when he drifted into positions away from the centre, on the flanks. First he picked up the ball in space on the left and drove a cross-shot past the far post, then in the second half his right-wing cross found Sergio Floccari who couldn’t find the net from a header. Lazio’s two wingers were quiet, although they did a good job defensively against Roma’s full-backs.

An interesting feature of the game was how Lazio pressed Roma at goal kicks – Hernanes would move forward, and he and Floccari would occupy Roma’s two centre-backs. This meant Doni was unable to play out from the back, and with Roma lacking a proper central striker (Marco Borriello, for example) long goal kicks weren’t much use. Totti’s strategy for challenging in the air was simply to charge at his marker and then turn his back at the last moment, frequently giving away free-kicks. The game lacked tempo before the break.

Second half

Unlike previous Rome Derbies, there were no personnel changes at half time. However, Lazio changed their style of football – playing higher up the pitch, being more positive and competing in midfield. Neither side really got a hold of the ball in this period – Roma couldn’t make it stick upfront, and because they had been forced deeper, their onrushing midfielders had further to run to get to Totti. At the other end, Floccari had one headed chance but was otherwise dealt with well by Juan and Philippe Mexes.

The breakthrough came from the star man, Pizarro. He not only kept Roma moves flowing by playing simple passes from side to side, he also broke forward and dribbled at the heart of the Lazio defence, catching his opponents by surprise. One of these runs saw him fouled on the edge of the box, and Totti smashed the free-kick in.

Reja responded by switching his formation to an attack-minded 4-2-4ish shape, and Hernanes was one of the men to depart – as happened in the first derby of the season. However, the end of the game because more of a fight than a football game. Lazio had two men dismissed (and it could have been more), whilst Totti and substitute Fabio Simplicio kept the ball in the corner for much of the final ten minutes. Amongst all this, Simplicio won a penalty which was converted by Totti for the second goal.

Conclusion

It was a welcome return for the formation Roma played with such success for the majority of last season, and the opening to the game suggested they’d put on a real show. However, they lacked individual spark from their two wide men, Vucinic and Menez, and therefore turned to Pizarro through the centre for their openings. It was fitting that he won the free-kick that broke the deadlock, though (as in the crazy comeback against Bayern earlier this season) it’s always Totti who manages to grab the headlines.

Lazio were very disappointing – they made poor decisions with the ball, couldn’t involve Floccari in their play, and Hernanes was as quiet as he was in the first Rome derby of the season.

Roma 2-0 Lazio: Totti the hero but Pizarro the architect

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