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Radja Nainggolan, The Difference In The Derby

Photo credit: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images

In one of the most highly-anticipated games of the season so far, the Derby Della Capitale arrived this Saturday afternoon and safe to say it did not disappoint.

Roma came away from the Stadio Olimpico with a 2-1 victory courtesy of goals from Radja Nainggolan and Diego Perotti, who’s opener came from the penalty spot. Ciro Immobile scored the only goal for Simone Inzaghi’s side from the penalty spot, but on a day where derbies were the order of the day across Europe, this one stood out for multiple reasons.

It showed that despite Lazio’s great form in the first few months of the season, they still lacked that little spark to change the game. They had Immobile up front, but the creativity behind him lacked and much like he did for the Azzurri the past week or so, he didn’t get the service he needed. But I don’t want to be too critical of a Lazio side that is not only talented and in a good run, but one that is also extremely likable. As for Roma, they were superb and proved that it’s going to take a lot for teams to take points off of them this coming season, regardless of whether it’s home or away.

A large part of Roma’s great form, but whilst Edin Dzeko will get the headlines for the amount of goals he scored, there’s one man in this side who really stands out as a truly world class player (a phrase that I use very lightly in this day and age).

Radja Nainggolan was outstanding today, dominating the Lazio midfield to the extent where Lucas Leiva and Sergej Milinkovic Savic seemed to give up trying to take him on. His pure energy caused Lazio problems all game, but what really stood out was how many times he joined in with the attacks and; as his goal showcased, he can really find the back of the net when he’s in the mood.

In a midfield trio alongside Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman, it gives Roma the perfect balance of a sitting/defensive midfielder, a deep-lying playmaker and an energetic all rounder. It gives the Belgian the license to roam free in terms of going forward, but also means he can drop deep and help out defensively when needed. In a tight game between two really good teams, Nainggolan and his all round ability was the difference.

Nainggolan himself once claimed that he is “the best midfielder in the city of Rome and in all of Serie A”, and when he puts in performances like he did today, you can’t help but look at him with starry eyes and agree. Yes, Miralem Pjanic is a wonderful player, as is Marek Hamsik and his Napoli teammate Jorginho, but Nainggolan is a step above everyone of them. If you needed evidence of this, rewatch this Roma vs Lazio game.

He was the difference, he was the match winner and quite frankly, Lazio’s midfield and defence didn’t know how to deal with him. If Roma have the ambition of becoming Serie A champions, Radja will be front and centre as the star of this team.

@ItalianFD

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