Roma-Lazio: Prophet shows feet of clay as King holds court
Hernanes is considered to be Serie A's only naturally two-footed player, but on Monday evening the Brazilian must have wished that for once he had two left feet.
In a pulsating Rome derby, the Lazio playmaker was on the way to one of those match-winning performances that would go down in Roman folklore Ã¢ÂÂ but in the end he got all tangled up in his own nifty feet.
It was the first time that the Derby della Capitale had been played on a Monday and it was a return to an evening kick-off and all the security worries which that brought, with local businesses around the Olympic Stadium closing early.
Unfortunately, fears of trouble were realised as fans clashed with police at the traditional flashpoint on the Ponte Milvio Ã¢ÂÂ the bridge to the north of the stadium which has become a notorious meeting point for opposing ultras Ã¢ÂÂ and although the incident was quickly quelled, two fans were reported to have been stabbed and the ambulance that was quickly on the scene pelted with stones.
The news travelled around the stadium, embellished in the telling to worsen what was already a volatile atmosphere at both ends of the ground.
What was needed was for the match to ignite the passions on the pitch and this was where Hernanes looked set to live up to his O Propheta nickname and deliver Lazio to the promised land of a fourth consecutive victory over their old rivals. After 16 minutes of hectic end-to-end action, a Roma corner was repelled and in a blink of an eye the graceful South American had the wide open spaces of the middle of the pitch all to himself.
With the opposition defence back-pedalling and Daniele De Rossi labouring to get back, Hernanes weighed up the option of a shot with his marginally stronger right foot but then decided to step inside and unleash a left-foot zinger with such power that Maarten Stekelenburg could only make a token dive to his right as the ball arrowed high into the net.
Hernandes cuts inside to unleash his barn-buster
Roma were stunned and for a time it seemed that Hernanes was going to turn the evening into a one-man show of swagger and unerring passing with either foot. Only a last-ditch challenge from De Rossi denied him a second goal and the Roma midfielder, left hobbling from then on, had to be replaced soon after.
Hernanes continued to torment the opposition with series of flashy runs and step-overs to draw challenges thus giving the wide players, Antonio Candreva and Senad Lulic, that extra second or so to time their runs in behind the Roma defence.
However, the ancient Gods of the Eternal City must have thought enough of this joviality and in the cruellest manner Hernanes was turned into a false prophet Ã¢ÂÂ unable to deliver when it really mattered.
Ten minutes had passed in the second half when Roma defender Marcos Marquinhos was adjudged to have handled in the area and the man of the moment was presented the opportunity to seal the deal. Hernanes had already scored three derby penalties, so surely this would be a mere formality to make it the magical four in a row.
But a dark shadow crossed his face and as he waited for the expectant stadium to gather its breath, so his feet Ã¢ÂÂ well, his right foot Ã¢ÂÂ turned to clay, the spot-kick curling harmlessly wide of the right post.
"Ooops": Hernandes curls his penalty wide
From there, it was but a short step from divinity to derision and when drawn back into his own penalty area he could only extend a leg to trip Miralem Pjanic.
It was left for the King to step forward and restore order as Francesco Totti dispatched his own spot-kick, in doing so drawing level with the nine-goal derby record shared by his former team-mate Marco Delvecchio and 1950s Roma striker Dino Da Costa Ã¢ÂÂ both of whom were in the stands and had been given a rousing reception when they paraded in front of the Curva Sud before kick-off.
Hernanes's hesitancy from the spot had inspired Roma and when Lazio defender Giuseppe Biava received a second yellow card it looked as if would be the GiallorossiÃ¢ÂÂs evening. Totti continued to pepper the Lazio goal, but a combination of fine Federico Marchetti saves and wasteful finishing from Alessandro Florenzi and Erik Lamela, who somehow headed over from under the bar in dying moments, ensured honours were even for the first time in six years.
For both sides the result could have been much better or much worse. But in the end, the King held court over the prophet Ã¢ÂÂ and at times maybe one good decent foot is better than two exceptional ones.