Roma came within centimetres of striking a huge blow in the race for the Champions League after bashing the woodwork twice in Sunday night’s Rome derby, with Edin Dzeko cursing his luck as his injury-time header thumped off the bar just as the Curva Sud was preparing itself for another night of wild celebrations following Tuesday night’s Barca battering.
The Bosnia international came close three times in stoppage time of a cagey contest with 10-man Lazio in which Roma broadly dominated play but struggled to create, and when they did create, they fell victim to the frame of the goal or found Thomas Strakosha in the way. Dzeko had forced a fine save from the Lazio stopper just before hitting the bar, seeing a blistering shot whistle past the post soon after. Maybe hoping for a last-second derby winner after what happened midweek might have been asking a little bit too much.
In the middle of those chances, there was a lot of huff and puff but no houses being blown down, a match bogged down by desperation not to lose and the tiredness of two teams worn out by their contrasting experiences in Europe. Roma remain third, level on 61 points with Lazio, and if they get the two wins they should expect to get from humdrum Genoa and SPAL, they’ll be a good bet for Champions League football next season regardless of what happens in the remainder of this year’s competition.
Roma were solid and gave little away against what was Serie A’s best attack coming into the weekend. They kept their shape and kept both Ciro Immobile and Felipe Anderson from bursting in behind, despite playing a high line, thanks to some excellent offside-trapping led by Kostas Manolas.
Missing chances has been Roma’s biggest failing this season and that weakness struck again on Sunday night. Roma have hit the woodwork 20 times this season: at a certain point, that stops being bad luck and becomes something else.
6 — If Tuesday night was ruthless efficiency, Sunday was hard work. Despite playing with a similar system to that used against Barca, there was much less intensity in the press and effectiveness with the ball, probably because Lazio didn’t go out onto the pitch thinking they’d already won. Nonetheless, Eusebio Di Francesco made the right changes when he needed to and on the balance of play, his side should have won.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Alisson, 6 — Hard to judge on the basis of Sunday’s work. Was well-protected by his defence.
DF Federico Fazio, 6 — Held off pretty much everything that came his way but was way too sloppy on occasion with the ball.
DF Kostas Manolas, 6 — One major error almost allowed Immobile to score but otherwise solid until being substituted with a muscle issue.
DF Juan Jesus, 6 — Kept things simple but it’s nerve-wracking when he has the ball. It’s a strange thing that passes find their way to him so often.
MF Bruno Peres, 6 — Struck the post when he should have scored but clearly benefited from playing as a wing-back rather than in a conventional back four.
MF Daniele De Rossi, 5 — Maybe Tuesday took too much out of him, but the captain was way below his best.
MF Kevin Strootman. 6 — A battling display in a match that asked for grit rather than finesse. Unlucky not to see his superlative cross not headed home by Dzeko.
AM Patrik Schick, 5 — Plenty of enthusiasm but the club-record signing has been a flop and this performance did nothing to change anyone’s mind on that score.
AM Radja Nainggolan, 7 — Unlucky not to have an assist after Peres wasted his perfect pass to strike the post.
FW Edin Dzeko, 7 — How he didn’t end up with a last-gasp winner from one of his three efforts no one knows.
FW Cengiz Under, 6 — Radu was sent off thanks to him. A bright spark just as Lazio dimmed.
DF Alessandro Florenzi, 6 — Similar enthusiasm to Tuesday night, but less effective.
FW Stephan El Shaarawy, N/R — Helped push Roma forward as 10-man Lazio nearly buckled.
Terry is based in Rome and is ESPN FC’s AS Roma blogger. Twitter: @T_Daley