Paulo Fonseca was delighted with the effort of his players as Roma beat Ajax 2-1 on Thursday.
The Giallorossi came from behind to win at the Johan Cruyff Arena after goals from Lorenzo Pellegrini and Roger Ibanez - giving Fonseca a much-needed win.
The two sides will do it all again next Thursday at the Stadio Olimpico, with a place in the Europa League semi-finals on the line.
“It was an important win, one gained despite the fact we are going through a bit of a tough period right now. It was really important to win here. Ajax are a really good side, as we saw today, but the boys produced a great performance.”
You said Roma needed to play a perfect game. Despite so many injuries – including one for Leonardo Spinazzola tonight – you managed to get the win.
“Yes, it was tough to watch what happened to Spinazzola; he was playing really well, he had already created a few chances in attack. But these things can happen in football and we had to react – Calafiori came on and did well for the team.
“I think the side realised that it was a key moment for them. They gave everything. It’s true, we had issues in defence, but I think they always believed they could score goals here.”
It was another big test for the team.
“It was an intense game – but we produced what we had worked on in training for this game. Obviously I’m pleased we got the win. It was great to score two goals – but the tie is not over yet.”
The game turned on three things: the team went out with the right attitude, then you gave up another goal too easily, and then Lorenzo Pellegrini helped turn thing back around.
“Yes, it’s true, and it’s frustrating that so often we seem to create problems for ourselves. Because other than that we always had a good handle on the Ajax attack. But the team did not lose courage or confidence, they bounced back. Pellegrini had a great game – he worked really hard, as they all did today.”
Do you think Roma play better, freer in Europe than in the league?
“I don’t want to look at excuses, you know that. But we cannot forget that this team has been in the top four in the league for most of the campaign. But I have to say that we have also lost key players at a big moment in the season – like Veretout, Mkhitaryan and Smalling. Now what matters is the present and the future. With the players we have we can fight until the very end.”
Do you think you deserve more respect as a coach?
“I have a job to do, I can’t control what others write. I accept that, if they write that I’ve done something wrong. But I don’t like outright lies. And there are a lot of them. For me, as someone who is not Italian, it is difficult to understand why people make up so many lies about the only team still representing Italy in Europe. I don’t think that’s right. Right now, we all need to be Italian and help the Italian club still in Europe.”
What are those lies?
“That the players confronted me, that we had a meeting before training [earlier in the week]. It’s all a lie. If you write something like that, you can’t be taken seriously. But I cannot control that. I can only control what I do and the work my players do – trying to do all that while keeping the right perspective.”
(Photo Getty Images)