Roma scored twice in four minutes early in the second half to beat Lazio 2-1 in the most high-profile derby between the Italian capital’s clubs in years on Saturday.
The entertaining match was just what Italian football fans needed in the first Serie A game since the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades.
After Diego Perotti opened the scoring with a penalty, the Argentine winger turned provider when Radja Nainggolan added another to finish off a swift counterattack.
Nainggolan’s status had been in doubt due to injury but he was a surprise starter. “He’s really a ninja in this sense,” Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said, using the midfielder’s nickname. “He’s got a head of iron and he’s a player with a lot of talent.”
Ciro Immobile converted a penalty for Lazio to reduce Roma’s lead and add to his league-best scoring total of 15 in 12 matches. Roma moved into third place, two points behind leader Napoli, which was hosting AC Milan later.
Lazio dropped to fifth, two points behind Roma. With a combined 55 points entering the derby, it was the highest tally for the two Rome sides after 11 league games since 1994.
It was also the first derby since longtime Roma captain Francesco Totti retired. Totti watched like a proud father from the tribune, comfortable in the knowledge the Giallorossi are looking more organized under first-year coach Di Francesco, his former teammate.
Less than three weeks ago, Roma dominated English Premier League champion Chelsea 3-0 in the Champions League and now it is in the hunt for its first Serie A title since 2001 with city bragging rights.