Roma coach Luciano Spalletti admitted his side were forced to dig deep in order to come away with a valuable 1-0 victory over Napoli on Monday.
“Napoli are a great side,” Spalletti said. “They always play the same way but can adopt the right tactics according to how the match is going. We had to dig in a bit today. We had our chances but we didn’t take them, then in the latter stages we put an exceptional move together for the goal. It was a great goal that the team worked by passing the ball around on the floor. It was a great feeling to get the goal late on. We still have a long way to go but it’s important and shows we were on our toes.”
Is it even more satisfying to win in the manner you did today?
"Today we showed that in terms of character we have the potential to achieve big things. We still have a long way to go, of course, but today’s match is very important in terms of the work we’re doing and shows that we were on our toes and put some good moves together."
Francesco Totti has a knack for making the last ten minutes easier...
"The last ten or the last 20 – when he comes on determined to turn a match around he’s still a top player. He’s got the fans right behind him and he conveys that to the rest of the team and makes a huge contribution with his decision-making. He produced two passes today of the like we’re always asking the others to play – they’re unable to do it but when he comes on he plays them right away and manages to find the perfect time to deploy them. He deserved to come on today. I’d considered playing him from the start, but I had to think about the match as a whole and the tempo Napoli play at. In 15 minutes he showcases all his strengths and if he played from the start he’d lose his energy and quality. When he came on today he gave [Mohamed] Salah a wonderful pass – as I say, only he can pull that kind of pass off."
Are you still in the fight for second place? Did you expect an end-of-season like this when you came back to Roma?
"If you look at how many matches remain and who Napoli have to face, I think it's a tough ask but we'll give it a shot. When I arrived it was hard to imagine a run like this and in fact I don't think we've praised the players' work in the second half of the season enough. They stepped up to the plate and earned this position through every game and training session. This is a big achievement and a lot of credit should go to the team."
Juventus have won the Scudetto five seasons in a row. How can you bridge the gap to them?
"We need to buy better players! [laughs] Although Roma are already well-equipped in that regard. Over the course of the year, these players have done some really good things but at the end of the season there are some tough situations that need analysing: You always have to address them if you want to make progress."
What did you ask of your players from a coaching perspective today? You were under pressure at times.
"They were always trying to play in the hole behind our midfield and in front of our defensive line. They got into that gap on numerous occasions, but actually they didn't have too many great chances. I think we had more goalscoring opportunities, whereas they created more openings for half chances but made the wrong decision with the final ball. We were able to counter in midfield, but it wasn't easy getting the ball because of their possession, which was wearing us out. We dealt with the pressure well and made the most of the few chances we had on the counter. Nevertheless, the build-up to our goal was excellent. We got possession on the left and worked it over to the right, playing the ball on the floor and producing an exceptional goal. It's true we were under pressure, but I don't think we've stolen anything."