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Pellegrini the hero as Roma kick-start season against bitter rivals Lazio

Milan (AFP) – Lorenzo Pellegrini came off the bench and lifted Roma to a 3-1 win over bitter city rivals Lazio to revive his side’s stumbling start to the Serie A season on Saturday.

Eusebio Di Francesco’s team had plunged into crisis after a 2-0 defeat to Bologna, but have now claimed consecutive wins for the first time this season after their 4-0 victory over Frosinone in midweek.

The win ended Lazio’s four-match winning streak in Serie A and lifts Di Francesco’s side into fifth just behind their city rivals with 11 points from seven games.

“We reacted as men today, which was what I had asked for,” said Di Francesco.

“This performance means the team hasn’t lost its identity or idea of football. I saw the difference in their faces and their eyes today, and it showed on the pitch.”

Pellegrini came on after 35 minutes in place of Argentine Javier Pastore who hobbled off with a suspected calf injury.

And the 22-year-old transformed the must-win match in the Italian capital, opening the scoring just before half-time with a back-heel flick.

Lazio ace Ciro Immobile missed a chance for the equaliser moments later, but made no mistake after 67 minutes with an angled drive following a howler by Roma’s Argentine defender Federico Fazio.

But minutes later Aleksandar Kolarov fired Roma ahead again after Pellegrini won a free kick which the Serb sent through the Lazio wall, to achieve the rare exploit of scoring for both Roma and former team Lazio, in 2009.

Fazio made up for his earlier error with Roma’s third goal, heading a Pellegrini free kick into the far top corner four minutes from time.

Di Francesco’s side take on Czech club Plzen in the Champions League game on Tuesday.

Reigning seven-time Italian champions Juventus take on Napoli in a top-of-the-table clash Saturday. 

The champions lead Napoli by three points after six games.

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