Straight from the dark heart of Italy
The sight of AS Roma players encouraging their Lazio counterparts to show a little city solidarity against Inter was akin to the banking fraternity joining the Proles in the May Day parades.
The way the economy is heading that may just happen in the future, but hearing Daniele De Rossi plead with his bitter rivals to at least put up a good show against his side's title rivals wasn't something anybody would ever have predicted - but that's the bizarre world of Italian football.
It was a bit twitchy in the Capital at the weekend and conspiracy theorist were lurking at every corner along with those caught in two minds on how to approach a game where it would be the players not those in the stands who would decide the outcome – or would they?
There were those who felt very strongly that you should nail your colours to the flag and never concede one iota to the enemy - who would have their own agenda anyway - and then those in the opposing camp whose feelings were that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”
The Lazio fans on the whole fell into the latter grouping although in the Serie Aaaaargh! straw poll when faced with the conundrum of whether they would rather scupper Roma’s title chances than stay up they had to admit that it was a close call – a season in Serie B wouldn’t be the end of the world.
At that moment they were waiting to see how results would pan out on Sunday afternoon and as it turned out events could not have gone any better.
Certainly Roma felt that they needed to lecture their neighbours on how to behave, citing Parma’s full-bloodied efforts against them on Saturday as the correct manner in which to face the encounter.
It was not as if Parma had nothing to play for, as they were not mathematically safe from the drop, although a twelve-point advantage over third-bottom Atalanta would not have had them quaking in their boots too much.
Lazio’s six-point gap from the drop zone was a little more perilous, but then the Bergamo bunglers eased the conscience of any Laziale grabbling with thoughts of becoming a turncoat for the day.
Atalanta could only draw at home to Bologna, leaving the Romans needing to find a point from their remaining three games to stay up: if not Inter there was always Livorno or Udinese.
Of course, Lazio spoiled Inter’s title party back in 2002 when they defeated Hector Cuper’s men 4-2 on the last day to leave Karel Poborsky bemused at the abuse he received from his own fans after scoring twice on an afternoon of high-drama.
NEWS: Inter beat Lazio to return to summit
Marco Materazzi was so taken aback by Lazio’s cheek at not rolling over that his bottom lip was all aquiver as he beseeched his opponents to stop attacking when the score was at 3-2, only for Simone Inzaghi to score the fourth.
For once the pizzerias festooned in Roma memorabilia had their television sets tuned into a Lazio game although they were ready to switch channels to the nearest game show at the first sign of capitulation.
There were even claims of aiding and abetting when the team-sheets were produced and Tommaso Rocchi and player most likely – in Romanisiti eyes anyway – to provide the means to a goal was left on the bench.
And there was never going to be a repeat of those Ronaldo tears eight years ago this time around as this Inter model under Jose Mourinho were superior in every area to their hosts although it must be the first time a team putting in such a dismal showing have been applauded off the pitch.
There was a surreal atmosphere inside the Olympic stadium indeed – the Inter line-up garlanded more cheers than the home team and in the Curva Nord banners were unfurled informing Roma that their title hopes were nigh at an end.
The pressure on the Lazio players was intense especially when the chants off “If you win we’ll have more than a word with you” started emanating from certain sections of the ground which then rose as one to celebrate Walter Samuel’s opening goal.
“OH NOOO ...” read the banner and a former Roma player receiving the gratitude of the sworn enemy was all too much for any Giallorossi fan watching although there will be enough enmity stored up to fuel derby encounters for decades to come.
The Lazio players acted accordingly from then on and even Mourinho must have been embarrassed to have witnessed the “spectacle” as he no doubt would have been with another banner claiming he was “the only true person in a sham sport.”
In reality, the whole evening was a farce, but then when Lazio and Roma are involved fear and loathing runs deep in the Capital.
NEWS: Roma spice up final by slamming Inter
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