Balde brace ru­ins Totti’s derby farewell

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MI­LAN: Keita Balde struck twice as Lazio ru­ined Francesco Totti’s fi­nal derby as a player yes­ter­day with a thrilling 3-1 win over Roma that could also jeop­ar­dise their push for a top-two finish in Serie A.

Roma hosted their city ri­vals look­ing to main­tain their fad­ing ti­tle chal­lenge to lead­ers Ju­ven­tus af­ter a 2-2 draw at Ata­lanta on Satur­day took their lead to nine points with four games re­main­ing.

But Juve’s slip-up wasn’t enough to en­tice Roma on what should have been Totti’s derby farewell as his fi­nal sea­son in Italy’s top flight draws to a close.

Lu­ciano Spal­letti’s men phys­i­cally turned up at the Sta­dio Olimpico, but men­tally looked else­where as they strug­gled to im­pose their usual, fast-flow­ing game against a Lazio side bat­tling for a place in Europe.

Roma en­joyed a bright start, Edin Dzeko no­tably fir­ing over while un­der pres­sure from six yards out.

But the red and yel­low half of the Sta­dio Olimpico was stunned into si­lence be­fore the quar­ter­hour when Balde col­lected a per­fect through ball from deep in mid­field to side­step two de­fend­ers and fire through the legs of Emer­son Palmieri to wrong-foot Wo­j­ciech Szczesny in the Roma net.

Lazio felt they should have had a penalty ear­lier when Fazio ap­peared to foul Lukaku but it was Roma which was awarded a spot kick just be­fore half­time.

De Rossi stepped up and calmly sent the penalty into the bot­tom right cor­ner.

Lazio re­stored their ad­van­tage three min­utes later as Basta's strike from just out­side the area was de­flected past Szczesny by Fazio.

On an­other counter Se­nad Lulic was allowed to run half the length of the pitch be­fore find­ing Balde with a pre­ci­sion pass in­side the area for the striker to slot past Szczesny five min­utes from the end. AFP

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