José Mourinho and Maurizio Sarri are going in opposite directions in their second seasons in the Italian capital.
Roma is struggling to meet the higher expectations produced in Mourinho’s first term when the Giallorossi won the inaugural edition of the Europa Conference League.
Lazio, meanwhile, is on the upswing as Sarri’s squad fine-tunes his intricate passing schemes.
The difference was clear in the Rome derby on Sunday when Sarri’s Lazio edged Mourinho’s Roma 1-0 to leapfrog its city rival and move up to third place in Serie A.
Amid a fervent atmosphere at the Stadio Olimpico, Lazio took control early and went ahead courtesy of a defensive error by Roma.
Lazio winger Pedro stole the ball from Roma defender Roger Ibañez as the Giallorossi attempted to play out from the back and then set up Felipe Anderson with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Anderson, playing in a “false nine” position with Ciro Immobile injured, quickly deposited the ball into the net.
It was the fourth time a defensive error from Roma led to a goal this season – the most in Serie A.
Roma nearly equalized minutes later with a shot from Nicolo Zaniolo that hit the crossbar. But Roma again proved ineffective at finding the target – like when the Giallorossi failed to produce a single shot on goal in a 1-0 loss at home to Italian league leader Napoli two weeks ago.
In past seasons, Lazio had always struggled when missing Immobile. But Sarri’s intuition to move Anderson into the false nine position recalls a similarly successful move he made at Napoli with Dries Mertens years ago.
Unlike a traditional centre forward relying on crosses, Anderson is an agile mover who can confuse opposing defences – just as he did in a 2-0 win for Lazio at fellow top-four contender Atalanta two weeks ago.
Roma is still without dynamic forward Paulo Dybala, the former Juventus player who is out injured, and centre forward Tammy Abraham has been off target all season after scoring 23 goals across all competitions last term.
Lazio, which was missing key midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic through suspension, has now kept clean sheets in six of its last seven matches and also has among the most productive attacks in the league.
Roma finished second in its Europa League group, three points behind Real Betis, meaning it will face a playoff in February to stay in the competition against a team that dropped out of the Champions League. Lazio also struggled in Europe and dropped down to the Conference League.
Juventus hosted Inter Milan in the derby d’Italia later Sunday.
Fiorentina wins again
Fiorentina won 2-0 at Sampdoria for its fourth straight win between Serie A and the Conference League. Giacomo Bonaventura and Nikola Milenković scored for the Viola.
Bologna beat Torino 2-1 in a midtable clash and Silvio Berlusconi’s Monza defeated last-place Hellas Verona 2-0.
Monza was boosted by the presence of Pablo Marí, the Spanish defender who was stabbed in the back in a knife attack at a shopping centre nine days ago. Unable to play for a few months, Marí saluted the crowd and teammates before kickoff.