CHRIS SMALLING helped put a stop to Lazio’s stunning 11-game winning run in his first Rome derby.
On loan from Manchester United, the former England defender delivered a decent performance to help tame Serie A’s top scorer, 23-goal Ciro Immobile.
After Roma took the lead through ex-Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko, Smalling, 30, did feature in Lazio’s comical equaliser but the man to blame was blunder keeper Pau Lopez.
Yet Smalling delivered the type of commanding performance which has left some United fans wondering why they have allowed him to go out on loan.
As he had only just arrived in the Italian capital, Smalling missed the first meeting between these two, a 1-1 draw, on September 1.
Since then, he has become one of a small number of English players to impress over here in Italy as most – particularly defenders like Des Walker – ended up as disasters.
In front of 60,000 noisy fans at the Stadio Olimpico, this was one of Smalling’s toughest tests against the third-placed team who had won all of their league matches dating back to October.
Smalling proved he is not afraid to dabble in the dark arts and he sunk his studs into the ankle of Lazio forward Joaquin Correa but avoided a caution.
Dzeko then put Roma ahead with the back of his head after he got in front of Lazio keeper Thomas Strakosha who was too slow off his line.
But there was another keeper error soon after as Lazio levelled in bizarre circumstances.
Roma defender Davide Santon started the shambles with a poor header when trying to clear a corner. The ball seemed to be going out but keeper Pau Lopez made a complete mess of the situation and punched it up into the air to create even more danger.
Smalling jumped to head clear but Lopez got involved again and palmed the ball against the bar and it fell perfectly for defender Francesco Acerbi.
Roma had a penalty ruled out after it seemed Jason Kluivert had been tripped by half-time sub Patric but referee Gianpaolo Calvarese changed his mind after consulting the pitchside monitor.
Smalling, meanwhile, held firm and won applause for some of his tackles and surges forward.
Roma do not want to pay the £25million being demanded by United but looking at the state of the defence at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should be bringing him back to England.