Roma beat Lazio 2-0 in the Derby della Capitale on Sunday in an especially bad-tempered match. Tensions were high, even considering the deep ill will the two teams feel for each other, and it's not surprising given the stakes riding on this one.
Just a day before the match, thousands of Roma Ultras showed up to training to send their team off, and there's no mistaking just how much this one meant to them.
It's an incredible display, but there's a clear message sent here: we're dedicated to the cause, and you'd better be dedicated to it as well.
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And Roma were. They got goals from Kevin Strootman and Radja Nainggolan, extending the unbeaten streak against their bitter rivals to seven matches running now. Their opposition looked frazzled, disjointed and just out of it, and maybe it's because they got a very different talking-to from their Ultras on Thursday before the match.
Lazio Ultras were granted an audience with Le Aquile players during training, and in the intense discussion the diehard supporters demanded complete commitment and recognition of the importance of the match. “For us, this is not a battle,” insisted a spokesman for the Ultras. “For us, this is an ethnic war.”
The match itself was warlike, too. Strootman first kicked off a battle on the sidelines after jumping the advertising boards to celebrate with Roma fans, and then squirting his water bottle at the Lazio bench, leading to a red card for one of the Lazio substitutes.
It was chippy throughout, and downright ugly at times, with both teams clearly feeling the importance of the match. Somehow, the game ended with just one red card, but it could've been much worse. And no one would've been surprised, given the stakes.