Lazio striker Felipe Anderson capitalised on a dreadful defensive error to net the decisive goal in a 1-0 victory over Roma on Sunday, sending the Aquile above their rivals and into third in Serie A.
Roger Ibanez was robbed of possession inside his own box in the first half, handing Anderson the simplest of tasks to finish past Rui Patricio.
It proved to be the crucial moment of a tense and stilted game in which both sides struggled to create big chances.
Nicolo Zaniolo hit the bar for Roma minutes after they went behind, while Patricio produced an excellent save after the break to stop Anderson from notching a second.
Lazio held on to edge a fraught encounter, where one of Jose Mourinho’s assistants was sent off, and climbed above their rivals in the standings.
The victory came at the perfect time for Maurizio Sarri’s side, who were without injured captain Ciro Immobile and suspended star midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and had lost back-to-back games ahead of the clash.
Although the football wasn’t exactly free-flowing, the off-field efforts were spectacular as both sets of fans produced impressive choreographies before kick-off.
Energised by the raucous atmosphere, Roma made a fast start as Tammy Abraham’s snatched shot tested Ivan Provedel and Nicolo Zaniolo dragged an effort wide.
The Aquile, who were the ‘away’ team for the day, soon settled into a rhythm and eventually made the breakthrough courtesy of a catastrophic error from Ibanez.
The centre-back hesitated on the ball in his own box and was charged down by Pedro, and the loose ball fell into the path of Anderson for a simple finish.
Roma responded well as they instantly went up the other end and struck the bar with their best chance of the half, an effort from Zaniolo dipping onto the woodwork with Provedel sprawling.
Chris Smalling headed wide from a corner as Roma threatened early in the second half, but they then suffered a big blow when captain Lorenzo Pellegrini – the architect of their dangerous set pieces, was forced off with injury.
Lazio had rediscovered the defensive steel that saw them keep six consecutive clean sheets before last weekend’s shock defeat to Salernitana, and batted away cross after cross as the Roma support became more frustrated.
That spilled onto the touchline, where Mourinho’s assistant Salvatore Foti was sent off, and it was Lazio who came closest to a second goal when Anderson’s curling effort required a flying save from Patricio.
Eight minutes of added time gave the Giallorossi hope that a late equaliser could yet be found, but Lazio’s defence held firm to end their rivals’ three-match winning run.
Lazio rediscover defensive solidity – Although Lazio’s attack has shone this season, their defensive efforts have been the cornerstone of their strong start.
A 3-1 defeat to Salernitana at home last weekend was a big shock, as a unit that had previously shipped just five Serie A goals crumbled in the space of 20 minutes.
But they were back to their best here when needed most. The central partnership of Alessio Romagnoli and Nicolo Casale gave little away to their opposite men, and a late onslaught was dealt with calmly and professionally.
Another clean sheet was the reward, and Lazio’s record of eight goals conceded this season remains the league’s best – despite their surprising slip-up a week ago.
MAN OF THE MATCH – DANILO CATALDI
A Lazio youth product and boyhood fan, Cataldi played like a man who this fixture means a lot to.
The playmaker put in probably his best performance of the season with an all-action display in which he completed 80% of his passes, won two tackles, made three interceptions and made 13 ball recoveries.
The 28-year-old protected his defence, kept things ticking in possession and put his heart and soul into an arm wrestle of a match.
Roma: Rui Patricio 6; Mancini 5, Smalling 6, Ibanez 4; Karsdorp 6, Cristante 6, Camara 6, Zalewski 6; Zaniolo 6, Pellegrini 6; Abraham 5
Subs: Celik 6, Volpato 6, El Shaarawy 6, Matic 6, Belotti 6
Lazio: Provedel 7; Lazzari 6, Casale 7, Romagnoli 7, Marusic 6; Luis Alberto 6, Vecino 6, Cataldi 7; Pedro 6, Felipe Anderson 7, Zaccagni 6
Subs: Cancellieri 6, Hysaj 6, Basic 6, Romero 6
29′ GOAL! LAZIO IN FRONT! Felipe Anderson scores to put Lazio in front! It’s a gift from Roma. Ibanez tries to pass it inside his own box under pressure from Pedro, but it ends up at the feet of Anderson instead and he finishes easily!
33′ ROMA HIT THE BAR! Roma almost hit back instantly! Zaniolo’s dipping effort comes crashing off the bar and Lazio scramble to clear! Then Pellegrini has a go but it’s easily held by Provedel.
54′ PELLEGRINI CAN’T CONTINUE Bad news for Roma, as their captain Pellegrini is forced off through injury. On comes young Volpato.
68′ RED CARD! A red card is flashed to Salvatore Foti in the Roma dugout. He’s one of Mourinho’s assistants, presumably for dissent. Lots of boos!
74′ WHAT A SAVE! Lazio threaten on the counter as Cancellieri tears up the right wing and tees up Anderson, but the Brazilian’s shot is fingertipped away by a flying Patricio! Vital intervention from the Portugal international.