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“There Are Those Who Give Their All For 90 Minutes And Those Who Seem To Turn Their Noses Up At This Competition”

Written By Onyeka Daniel

In the Europa League, Italian side, AS Roma could only manage a 1-1 draw away to Swiss club, Serviette and after the game, Jose Mourinho blasted some of his players, including Houssem Aouar, for being ‘superficial’ in their approach to the game. ‘Some give their all, others turn their noses up at this competition.’

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The Giallorossi knew they had to win in Geneva to keep the pressure on Slavia Prague going into the final game, but Romelu Lukaku’s opener was cancelled out by Chris Bedia after a defensive error from makeshift centre-back Bryan Cristante at the dawn of the second half. There were several wasted chances from Paulo Dybala, Leandro Paredes and Leonardo Spinazzola, so with Slavia Prague beating Sheriff Tiraspol 3-2 with the last kick of the game, second place and the play-offs now seem pretty certain for Roma.

“We had important opportunities, but the start of the second half was something that happens too often to us,” Mourinho said in his post match interview. “It’s a pity that you don’t have a camera in our locker room at half-time, because every time I make it clear to them that the opponents playing at home who are a goal down will come out fighting. That is a natural reaction, it is something we expect.

“Yet again we were superficial in our attitude, in our interpretation of this moment of the match. There are players who once again missed an opportunity to prove themselves, for example Aouar. “There are several who are on the bench and come on in Serie A with a great attitude, then in the Europa League they come on with this sluggish attitude, like they are not accustomed to being on the bench and then do not improve the game.” With second place, Roma will go into the March play-offs against one of the teams that finished third in their Champions League groups.


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“We are heading into another play-off, it will be difficult against a side that drops down from the Champions League. It is another two European ties, one of them at the Stadio Olimpico with a full house, the fans showing their love. I don’t want to make a drama out of going into the play-off. The drama if anything is that we had the wrong attitude from these players and those who come out for the second half like that, repeatedly.

“I honestly do not understand it. I coached 150 Champions League games, which are much tougher, and yet it seems like there are people who don’t have a great history in Europe and play these fixtures with the bare minimum. “There are those who give their all for 90 minutes and those who seem to turn their noses up at this competition.” Cristante had to fill in as a central defender this evening, because Gianluca Mancini was not fully fit either, with Chris Smalling and Marash Kumbulla long-term absentees.

Now Evan Ndicka will be suspended for the final group game too. “Sadly, we only have one Cristante. He sets a great example for the others, as he plays with immense concentration. Ahead of him, Paredes I think co-ordinated possession very well, he is a World Cup winner, he has the right attitude. “There are people who feel comfortable with this superficial approach and we pay for it in results.” Mourinho was asked if some of those disappointing players will pay the price for this and he confessed that is not going to happen because Roma are so short-staffed.

“Nobody will pay for it. Guardiola can do that, if he’s not happy with one, he says goodbye, kicks him out and picks someone else. I cannot do that here. I can only try to keep hammering at them every day in training to get the best out of this group.” The Special One had also said in his press conference that Roma seemed more comfortable playing at the Stadio Olimpico than on their travels, particularly in European competition. “Perhaps it is in the DNA of Roma, some are in their comfort zone at home and get fired up with the crowd, whereas it’s tougher away from home. We could’ve won the game even with these things I did not like,” he added.

“We have some players who do not have a sense of responsibility, who do not want to let me know they are ready and ought to play more. Maybe they lost their voice by asking, because they will play more when the others are dying. That is because when the call comes to step up, it’s always the same players who give a response.” He further added. There is only an extremely slim chance that Roma will be able to win their Europa League group, needing Slavia Prague to slip up.

The Giallorossi had gone into this matchday on the same points as Slavia Prague and an identical head-to-head record, as both meetings ended 2-0 for the home side. With this in mind, if they finish level on points, it will be decided by overall goal difference and Slavia Prague have a far better score. Today’s 1-1 draw with Servette was a further blow, as Slavia Prague came back to beat Sheriff Tiraspol 3-2 with the last kick of the game.

That puts Slavia on 12 points and Roma 10. In order to win the group, Roma would have to beat Sheriff in the final match and hope Slavia Prague also lose to Servette. There is one other option, which is to beat Sheriff by five or more clear goals. In that case, if Slavia Prague draw with Servette, then Roma would manage to get a better overall goal difference. It’s very difficult, as Slavia Prague are now on +9 and Roma have +5.

Meanwhile…

Fiorentina manager, Vincenzo Italiano feels his decisions paid off in the comeback win over KRC Genk, but is frustrated by defensive errors. ‘It’s not the first time it has happened.’ The Viola needed a victory this evening to guarantee passage into the next phase of the Conference League and achieved it with a late penalty converted by Nico Gonzalez.

Genk had taken the lead at the Stadio Franchi against the run of play, cancelled out by Lucas Martinez-Quarta on the rebound from a parried Yerry Mina header on the stroke of half-time. “It was a great second half performance, because at the break we pointed out that we were too sluggish in the challenges and allowed several counter-attacks, which allowed Genk to score with our errors,” Italiano told Sky Sport Italia.

“We stepped up the tempo, the second goal was a penalty that we earned with at last a good team passing move in the build-up with a lot of quality.” However, in order to top the group and avoid a play-off, Fiorentina must avoid defeat in the final trip to Dejan Stankovic’s Ferencvaros.

“Now we have secured qualification, but still need to go and get the result in the last match. It is very important that we avoid the play-offs.” The coach surprised many with his starting lineup, by leaving both misfiring strikers M’Bala Nzola and Lucas Beltran on the bench, starting Christian Kouame upfront with Yerry Mina in defence. “I tell the players that nobody is forgotten, you either make an impact from the start or off the bench. A great example was for Lazio against Celtic, when Ciro Immobile – the captain – came on as a substitute, scored and decided the victory.

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“Today we saw players come on with the right attitude and I am happy, as it was an excellent second half performance.” Dodo is out for six months with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and Michael Kayode had been out for over a month with a sprained ankle. Fabiano Parisi was used as a makeshift right-back, but he is left-footed, so was it a coincidence that when Kayode came on, he won the penalty?

“Mina and Kayode did not have many minutes in their legs, so I decided to only risk one from the start. Kayo did really well to be ready on that Beltran pass and showed how to use those fresh legs running at tired defenders. “We thank Parisi, who had been filling in during this difficult period and trying to adjust for the new role, but I love the way we played for that move.”

Fiorentina have struggled more in Serie A than in the Conference League, so Italiano will be glad to have some time to focus more on training. “Above all, we have to work on our defending for the goal that we conceded today, because it’s not the first time it happened. The high press gains us many advantages, but there are also risks involved. The other thing is to get our strikers scoring, because converting chances into goals is how you get a game on track.” He further added.

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