UEFA Europa Conference League


Here's what Jose Mourinho had to say following Roma's 1-1 draw with Leicester City on Thursday evening...

Lorenzo Pellegrini scored an early goal for Jose Mourinho's side, only for an own goal in the second half to restore parity in the Europa Conference League semi-final first leg.

The tie will thus be decided in next Thursday's second leg at the Stadio Olimpico.

Especially in the first hour or so, Roma coped with the intensity of a Premier League side without too much difficulty…

“After that we gave away the ball too much. When we had chances to escape on the counter-attack, we didn’t do very well with them. The team was always well-organised. When we had lots of energy we were able to press them and we played how we wanted to. When we started to lose the ball and let the intensity drop, our defensive line dropped a bit and the game became harder for us in the second half.

“But, nevertheless, I am sure that before the game every Roma fan would have happily taken this result, because it means everything will be decided at the Olimpico. I am not smiling, though, because I know that even with 70,000 fans at the stadium it is going to be a difficult game.”

Can you hear them [Roma fans] behind you? They are still singing…

“They are incredible. But now we need to think about Bologna, because they are a side that are playing well and winning. Sunday is going to be very tough for us, in contrast to Leicester who are focused on the Conference League because they don’t have a chance of qualifying for Europe through the Premier League. But we still have that opportunity, there’s fifth place to play for and we have four games to do it.

“Sunday’s game is going to be really tough. We need to be focused, we need our fans and we need to forget that three days after it we will have the semi-final. We need to focus on Bologna.”

What are you expecting from the second leg? Are Leicester a more dangerous side away from home? How will you look to tackle the game?

“I need to think about that now; I need to analyse the game and I need to forget about it as well. First I need to concentrate on Bologna, because there is a big difference for us between finishing fifth and seventh. We want to be safe in the knowledge that we are in the Europa League next season, and not waiting to see if we win the Conference League or not.

“But, to answer quickly, I will say that it is true: Leicester are a side that play in behind, that even back when Ranieri was the coach did that like few other times. Now, with Brendan in charge and some different players, they can build the play – but they still have forwards that are great at getting in behind.

“It’s true that away from home they often play a bit deeper and then look to go in behind with Vardy, Iheanacho, Barnes and others. We need to play with our heads more than our hearts. The heart can come from elsewhere: we will need that from our fans, but on the pitch we will have to use our heads.

“It will be our 14th game in the Conference League – but if we win we will be in the final. We need to play smart. But now we need to think about Bologna.”

It seems like the squad are developing quite the character now…

“I agree with you. Five months ago we would have definitely lost this sort of game. We had the courage to play the way we did. We started well with the setup we had. Then, as I’ve said, when we didn’t have the ball it became a lot harder. We conceded a goal that perhaps we could have avoided – we could have come away from here with a 1-0 win and that would have been better. But it finished 1-1 and that’s an acceptable result. Now we have a final to play – not in Tirana, but in Rome.”

(Photo LaPresse)