Paulo Fonseca thanks Roma players for their team spirit and attitude after beating Shakhtar Donetsk 3-0, as they realise the Europa League is ‘a different style of football.’
He could not have asked for a better first leg result in the Europa League Round of 16, 3-0 at home with goals from Lorenzo Pellegrini, Stephan El Shaarawy and Gianluca Mancini.
This was a blast from the past for Fonseca, who worked at Shakhtar Donetsk for several years and knew the team very well.
“We were certain Shakhtar would play like this. They are very strong on the counter and we prepared well, waited for the right moment to press, learned when to sit back at the times we had to. It was a very good performance,” the coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“It was not an easy game. I know Shakhtar very well, it’s a team with a lot of quality and they didn’t just beat Real Madrid this season, they held Inter to two draws.
“They clam up well, are very strong on the counter, but we didn’t allow them many opportunities to attack. It was important to seek depth with our passes, because they might defend, but they keep the team very tight and quite a high line.
“Mancini is struggling physically, he is playing every game and made the sacrifice to stay on the field. We have players who are tired, but they all want to play. That spirit and sense of belonging is very important for a coach to hear.”
There was some tension at one stage, as Fonseca called El Shaarawy on after an exchange of words with Pedro, who seemed irritated at being told to track back.
“No, Pedro just didn’t understand what I was trying to tell him. I wasn’t angry.”
Roma have been by far the most impressive Italian team in the Europa League so far this season, winning seven of their nine matches.
“These games do bring extra motivation for the players, they realise it’s a different style of football. They are more concentrated, more wary of danger, I would like to see the same attitude in Serie A too.
“I am very happy and proud to be the coach of Roma, I love the city and the fans. Everyone knows it’s not easy here, but it’s important to be balanced in the good and bad moments.
“I am learning so much from this experience as the Roma coach.”