Di Canio denies triggering derby riot

By John Nisbet
Saturday 08 January 2005 01:00

Paolo Di Canio denied instigating a riot at Thursday night's Rome derby. Di Canio's opening goal, a superb volley, inspired Lazio to a 3-1 win over Roma at the Olympic Stadium. Di Canio goaded Roma's fans as he celebrated in front of them, beating his chest and kissing his badge.

Antonio Cassano levelled the match in the second half before Cesar and then Rocchi struck to give Lazio the points. As he was substituted in injury time, Di Canio shook his fists at the Roma fans, and television cameras caught him swearing at several opposing players. Within seconds of the final whistle, police clashed with Roma fans and were forced to use tear gas to separate rival fans involved in running battles in the streets.

"I couldn't possibly describe what I'm feeling," Di Canio said. "I was a little worried about this game and didn't expect us to be so comfortable, but the fact the Roma supporters said I was old and couldn't even stand up made me enjoy this twice as much. I was worried but my team-mates kept me calm. With this shirt on, you don't need to be frightened of anything.

"Fifteen years ago I scored with pure instinct and this was just as beautiful, but I was not insulting the Roma fans by celebrating under their end of the Stadium. Now I dedicate the victory to all these people who gave me such support and charged us all up for the victory."

The Lazio president, Claudio Lotito, came to his defence, saying: "Di Canio is a player and a fan, so he represents something extra compared to the other players. But everyone showed determination, courage and desire to get the result. Lazio win when the collective comes together."

It was a dream return to the Rome derby for Di Canio as he also set up a goal. The result ended a run of 10 derbies without success for Lazio and lifted them to 12th place in Serie A on 20 points, three behind eighth-placed Roma. The 36-year-old grinned: "I didn't think it would be this great and we could control the match that way."

Elsewhere, Hernan Crespo scored a hat-trick as Milan trounced Lecce 5-2 at the San Siro to move within two points of the Serie A leaders, Juventus. Milan had the game at the San Siro wrapped up at 4-0 after just 57 minutes thanks to Crespo's treble and a goal from the European Footballer of the Year, Andrei Shevchenko. "If it was up to me I wouldn't move from here and would end my career with Milan," said Crespo after receiving the match ball for his hat-trick. Milan want to make his move from Chelsea permanent and the coach, Carlo Ancelotti, who helped Crespo find his feet in Italy during the pair's time at Parma, will be delighted if a deal can be sorted out quickly.

Juventus were held to a second successive draw at Parma on Thursday. The home side struck when Marco Marchionni scored the equaliser five minutes from time to level after Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 64th-minute header.

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