Coach Paulo Fonseca had plenty of reasons to feel satisfied following Roma's 3-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Thursday evening.
The Giallorossi know they are one solid performance away from the quarter-finals of the Europa League, as goals from Lorenzo Pellegrini, Stephan El Shaarawy and Gianluca Mancini drove them to victory at the Stadio Olimpico.
Here's how the boss reflected on the game afterwards...
We thought that Shakhtar would drop deep tonight, trying to make the most of any space on the counter-attack: did you expect them to play the way they did?
“Yes, we were sure they wouldn’t press us too high up, instead trying to wait for us a bit deeper and launch counter-attacks. We prepared well for the game. We waited for the right moments to press, and we dropped deep when we needed to drop deep. Defensively, it was a really solid performance.”
It seems like Roma is building a side with a strong mentality…
“Yes. For example, [Gianluca] Mancini is playing almost every minute and he’s sacrificing himself to be out there. We have some tired players, but they always want to play. It’s really important for a coach to know his players are ready to sacrifice themselves for the team. That’s the sort of team spirit I want.”
Did Pedro answer back to you during the game, and is that why you took him off?
“No, Pedro didn’t understand what I was trying to tell him. There’s nothing more to it than that.”
Shakhtar beat Real Madrid twice in their Champions League group, and finished above Inter Milan too. How did you make this game seem so straightforward?
“It was not straightforward. I know Shakhtar really well, they are a really good side. They didn’t just win against Real, they held Inter to two draws too. They defend really well and are incredibly good on the counter-attack. We didn’t give them many chances to attack on the counter, however. Shakhtar defend quite narrowly and it was important we really attacked the spaces aggressively. In that regard we did well, especially in the second half.”
Roma have won seven games out of nine in this season’s Europa League now…
“In games like these, the players always have a little extra motivation. They know they are different games, with a different style of play required – they are more focused, more concentrated. It will be important to make sure we take that attitude back into the league with us.”
What’s it like for you, coaching Roma? How in love with the club are you right now?
“A lot. I’m happy to be Roma’s coach. I love the city and the fans. You all know that it is not easy here, but the key thing is to stay balanced. I’m learning a lot from being the coach here at Roma.”
(Photo Getty Images)