Roma Still Champions After Derby Day Victory Over Lazio
Again, apologies for the late edition of this article. I am now back from Dubai and the articles should return to being on time!
Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship (UWCC) witnessed another defence on Sunday as champions Roma hosted arch rivals Lazio in the Rome derby.
These matches are among the most volatile in world football, and often form counts for nothing as both teams up their games for the biggest match of their season.
However, if one was to glance at the form book, they would have seen that Roma held a distinct advantage over their fiercest rivals.
Coming into this match, the Giallorossi were on a six match unbeaten run, including three wins in their last three games. This good form had helped them through to the next round of the Europa League and also catapulted them up the league table.
Lazio, meanwhile, had been in poor form. They were without a win in eight in all competitions, including their most recent outing, a 2-1 loss to SV Red Bull Salzburg which left their Europa League qualifying ambitions in tatters.
Their league form was even worse. They last tasted victory domestically on the 30th August, a run of 13 games without a win.
And they stretched that unenviable record to 14 in the Derby della Capitale as 10 man Roma ran out 1-0 winners in an explosive match.
As usual with this fixture, the atmosphere within the Stadio Olimpico was at fever pitch. To many of the die-hard fans watching the match, victory was more important than silverware at the end of the season.
However, this passion, and some may say stupidity, spilt onto the field in the early stages of the game.
Both sets of fans began throwing fireworks and flares onto the field of play, causing the referee to call a halt to the fixture, relaying a message to the fans that, should such behaviour continue, the match would be abandoned.
Thankfully, after just six minutes, he deemed it safe to restart the match, and the threat of abandonment seemed to have done the trick.
It was Lazio who responded best after the short break with a potentially dangerous attack being thwarted by Phillipe Mexes. The French centre-back had to be alert to clear a dangerous low cross from Stephan Lichtsteiner.
Lazio's attacking philosophy may have surprised Roma and it was evident that the, technically speaking, away side were determined to make this the game they turned their floundering season around.
Despite their superior possession, however, they looked toothless in attack throughout the first half. Striker Mauro Zarate seemed isolated up front which meant that, although Lazio had many good attacking bases, they couldn't find the killer touch in the final third.
They almost did, however, on the half hour mark. For once, Zarate had good support, but his cross just eluded Stefano Mauri.
Lazio had just edged the first-half, and they started the second in much the same way, coming out aggressively and it was they who looked like the team who wanted, or perhaps needed, to win most.
In an intriguing, if not thrill-a-minute game, it was becoming more obvious with every passing second that the rare chances needed to be taken. And on the hour mark, Lazio had a glorious opportunity to do just that.
An error from Nicholas Burdisso let Mauro Zarate in on the Roma goal. The Lazio striker's shot beat Julio Sergio, but rebounded off the near post straight into the path of Stefano Mauri.
It looked like a certain goal, but out of nowhere Julio Sergio produced a stunning save to deny Lazio the opener.
This seemed to give Roma a bit of heart, and not long after they had their first gilt-edge chance of the game.
Lazio defender Mobido Diakito misread a high ball, which allowed Mirko Vucinic to send in a dangerous cross for Simone Perrotta.
Once again, it looked like the opener was a matter of seconds away, but this time it was Perrotta who was denied by a spectacular stop, his point blank header being tipped over by Lazio goalie Fernando Muslera.
Lazio responded by re-taking control of the game, and they provided a few half-chances through an Aleksandar Kolarov free-kick and another Zarate effort. Their lack of killer instinct, however, was about to cost them dearly.
Against the run of play, Vucinic collected the ball on the right wing, before whipping in a low cross to the on-rushing substitute Marco Cassetti, who quickly adjusted his feet before sending the ball low past Muslera.
The celebrations indicated the importance of the goal as Roma players from all over the pitch, and indeed the bench, ran over to congratulate the goalscorer.
The goal seemed to take all the fight out of Lazio's valiant performers, and Roma could have doubled their lead on a couple of occasions had they just been a little more incisive in their breakaways.
The "away" side were given a small lifeline late on when Roma's David Pizarro received two yellow cards in quick succession to reduce them to 10 men, but Lazio just couldn't take advantage, and had to watch enviously as Claudio Ranieri and his players celebrated a huge victory.
The match was Roma's fifth defence of the UWCC title, making them the longest-reigning champions since Chelsea's record-breaking run.
David Pizarro's red card was the seventh of the season in UWCC title matches, and the 14th of all time.
In the poll, 85.7 percent of voters correctly predicted that Roma would avoid defeat in the Rome derby, so well done to everyone who got it right!
Roma 2-1 Fulham (Roma become new champions)
Roma 1-0 Lazio
(Click here to see the complete history of Barney Corkhill's Unofficial World Club Championship)
Roma's next title defence comes on Sunday as they travel to face Sampdoria in Serie A. Can Sampdoria become the greatest team in the world?!
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