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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

The Protti express arrives just in time

Season 1996-97

Game, Serie A

Sunday, May 4, 1997

Stadio Olimpico, Rome

Roma Lazio 1-1

A 92nd minute equaliser gives ten men Lazio late point

Official SS Lazio photo

Lazio were in 5th position, on 43 points. The Biancocelesti had a two point lead on Udinese who were 7th (top 6 qualified for Europe). In the last three games, Lazio had beaten Piacenza 2-0 at home, lost 0-1 away to Sampdoria and then thrashed Reggiana 6-1 at home. Lazio were on decent form climbing the table with 5 wins in the last 7 games.


Roma were having a poor year, first under Carlos Bianchi and then, from April 20 Nils Liedholm. The Giallorossi were 12th, on 36 points. They had lost the last three games, Cagliari 1-2 away, Parma 0-1 at home and Fiorentina 1-2 away and were winless since March 16. All the more dangerous for Lazio in today's derby.


Lazio on better form and seven points ahead. What could go wrong? Everthing, this was a derby where the underdogs often triumphed. It was basically Roma's last chance to salvage a so far forgettable season.


A packed 75,000 stadium welcomed the two local rivals onto the Olimpico turf. It was a warm May day and the game was being played relatively late in the season to be a derby.


Lazio had Pierluigi Casiraghi back from injury and Alessandro Nesta too, back on the bench after six weeks out, but were without José Antonio Chamot. Renato Buso was preferred to Roberto Rambaudi in midfield.


Roma were without Amedeo Carboni, had both Marco Delvecchio and Daniel Fonseca on the bench and played with Francesco Totti and Abel Balbo up front, with a strong muscular midfield.


Roma started on the front foot despite never really threatening Luca Marchegiani, he had to slap away an insidious cross by Vincent Candela but not much else. For Lazio, Diego Fuser was the most lively and he surged forward on the left, cut inside a fired a mid-height, well angled, right footed shot but Giovanni Cervone did well  to parry it and Beppe Signori completely mishit the rebound.


The game was not spectacular with few goal scoring opportunities but it was at least fast and dynamic.


A goal however came somewhat unexpectedly in the 35th minute. Jonas Thern put an excellent low through ball behind the Lazio defence, Balbo was quicker to react than Beppe Favalli and was one-on-one with the keeper. What followed was both fortuitous and controversial. Marchegiani raced off his line and anticipated the Argentine striker but the ball then ricocheted off Balbo and went towards the goalline where Mark Fish sprinted back and seemed to clear off the line with a lunging dive. On the line, over the line ? The linesman had no hesitation and pointed his flag towards the centre circle. Roma 1 Lazio 0. Lazio protested furiously but obviously to no avail. Halftime score Roma 1 Lazio 0.


An energetic if unspectacular first 45 minutes decided by a lucky and dubious goal.


There were no changes for the second half.


Lazio came back on with more positive intentions and attacked more. Casiraghi had a powerful left foot parried by Cervone. Roma however were dangerous on the break. Balbos' left foot was too weak from a favourable position.


In the 66th and 67th minutes came the first substitutions. For Lazio Roberto Rambaudi came on for a quiet Buso and, for the Giallorossi, Marco Delvecchio replaced a tired Balbo.


Delvecchio almost scored immediately when, set up by Totti his diagonal, low, left foot shaved the post. Roma close to putting the game out of Lazio’s reach.


In the 72nd minute Lazio replaced captain Signori with Igor Protti who had scored a hat-trick a week earlier.


The captaincy passed to Favalli but not for long. In the 77th minute he got a second yellow for a foul on Damiano Tommasi in midfield and was given his marching orders. One-nil down and in ten men, things were not looking good for the Eagles.


Rome had control of the game now and Totti hit the outside of the post with a low, right-footed strike. He was taken off soon after in the 82nd minute for a more defensive Antononino Bernardini.


Lazio did not give up and continued to push forward despite obviously risking to be punished on the break.


The referee gave five minutes of additional time. In the second came a high cross into the Roma area from the left, Rambaudi not known for his heading skills jumped up and nodded the ball into heart of the area where Protti lunged forward between the two central defenders and poked it past Cervone. Roma 1 Lazio 1.


Delirium in the Curva Nord and on the pitch where Protti re-enacted his "trenino" celebration used in his Bari days (crawling on all fours towards the corner flag followed by all his teammates, like a train) and under the Curva Sud!


The game was over. Roma 1 Lazio 1. A typical derby, intense, vibrant, exciting for those involved but lacking many goal scoring chances. Zoff had got the substitutions right while Nils Liedholm's famous quote "si gioca meglio in 10" (one plays better in 10 men) today had been proven true.


Roma were kicking themselves for letting the three points slip away. Lazio were rampant, for the way it had come it was a draw that felt like a win. It would forever just be called "Il derby di Protti".


Who played Roma

Cervone, Pivotto, Petruzzi, Aldair, Candela, Tommasi, Di Biagio, Thern Statuto, Totti (82' Bernardini), Balbo (67' Delvecchio)

Substitutes: Berti, Moriero, Fonseca, Stovini, D. Conti

Manager: Sella

T.D: Liedholm


Who played for Lazio

Substitutes: Orsi, Marcolin, Nesta, Gottardi, Piovanelli

Manager: Zoff


Referee: Boggi

Goals: 35' Balbo, 90' Protti

Red card: 77' Favalli





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