Tactical Battles That Shaped Lazio's Clash with AS Roma

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Tactical Battles That Shaped Lazio's Clash with AS Roma
Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press

There's no such thing as a meaningless Derby della Capitale, but this clash between Lazio and Roma came with particular poignancy not just for the two Roman clubs but also for the rest of Serie A. 

A win would have kept Roma in touch with leaders Juventus, who drew with Verona, while also ensuring a comfortable lead over Napoli, who were impressive in their win against Milan, in third.

Lazio, meanwhile, desperately need points after a disappointing first half to the season. A win would put them within touching distance of fifth and the last Europa League place. 

Rudi Garcia and Edy Reja are two managers with very different styles and approaches to football. Though the Lazio boss mirrored Garcia's formation, the different philosophies were apparent.

Lazio did well to contain free-scoring Roma up front while also trying to impose themselves on the Giallorossi midfield, currently one of the most complete and impressive central combinations in Europe. 

Out wide, both Andre Dias and Abdoulay Konko were in fine form for the hosts. Neither offered much in an attacking sense, but the pair did brilliantly to stifle Roma's play on the flanks, an area where they have been lethal at times this year. Maicon's brilliant play from defence should have resulted in a goal—the Brazilian was the only player good enough to trouble the Lazio defenders consistently on the wing—but his hard work was undone by his teammates. 

Unsurprisingly, the centre was crucial to this game.

Garcia has created a dynamic, aggressive and extremely well-drilled game based around his midfielders, all of whom possess plenty of skill on the ball and determination off of it. Kevin Strootman, Daniele De Rossi and Miralem Pjanic have all been outstanding in the centre for Roma this season, as has Radja Nainggolan since arriving from Cagliari

On the day, Pjanic had an uncharacteristically poor game, probably attributable to the fact that the Bosnian is not fully fit at the moment. 

The Aquile contained Pjanic's normally impressive passing and somehow stunted the energetic styles of De Rossi and Strootman.

The Biancoceleste midfield was impressive, with Cristian Ledesma in particular putting in a good shift. The Argentine covered Francesco Totti very well, and limited the Roma captain's influence on proceedings. The veteran was forced to drop deep looking for the ball, and though he improved in the second half once he drifted farther wide, he failed to break down the disciplined Lazio back line.

Senad Lulic was also pivotal for Reja's side. The Bosnian is something of a cult hero among the Lazio faithful thanks to the winning goal he scored against Roma in last year's Coppa Italia final, and he rose to the occasion again, this time around disrupting and denying space to the Lupi's central players. 

The loss of Heranez in the centre for Lazio—he of course transferred to Inter in the January window—makes the midfield job awfully harder for Lazio, so the way in which they coped with this game is all the more impressive. The Brazilian was long their most impressive player and his loss will be felt for some time to come. 

It's a result that will bolster Lazio's spirits and provide a sobering lesson for Roma. The Giallorossi were clearly the better side, and yet they failed to break down a well-drilled, focused opponent. Lazio's containment game won't be easy for every side to replicate, but its success should worry Garcia nonetheless.

 

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