Defender Kostas Manolas has revealed some of the secrets behind the goal that made him ‘God of Rome for one night’ – when he scored for Roma to beat Barcelona in the Champions League in April.
Manolas, 27, scored the decisive third goal on an unforgettable night at the Stadio Olimpico, as the Giallorossi overturned a 4-1 first leg deficit to progress to the semi-finals of the competition on away goals.
Speaking to Greek outlet sport24.gr, Manolas revealed that during the game he had a premonition that he might be the one to score the winner – and that the goal itself came about thanks to an astute observation from the No. 44.
“What a night that was,” Manolas said. “When you score the third goal, against Barcelona, to reach the Champions League semi-finals, in a game you entered already behind…
"To think that we had just lost the first game 4-1, and had to face Messi, Suarez and others again. What can you say? And yet…
“As soon as we walked in and saw them, and then especially the first 10 minutes of the game, I believed in [the comeback] so much. I felt that Barcelona were too relaxed, while we were in very good shape. From the first person to the last.
“Before the game, in the locker room, there were some who believed it: I will tell you the truth, I did not believe it before the game. I never believed it. To think that you will win 3-0 against Barcelona? You have to be mad. But the match started, we scored an early goal, we were fighting like lions. When we made it 2-0, I was sure we would qualify.
“After we had the second goal, after about 79 minutes we were standing in the middle of the pitch and I turned to my defensive partner [Federico] Fazio and said, ‘We are going to score – and you or I will be the ones to do it.’ And if you do not believe me, you can ask him.
"In the end it was me that did it. But this conversation happened out there on the pitch. I told him. I felt it was coming.”
Manolas would be the one who ended up scoring, his glancing header from a Cengiz Under corner destined to go down in Roma history.
“The goal itself? At that moment I was convinced we would score,” he added.
“When Under went to take the corner, I remembered that the first one he took did not make it beyond the near post.
"I knew it would come in a bit low. So that’s why I made that run. I knew his ball would be a bit short into the near post. I usually never make my run to the near post. But that time I did, I got my head on it and the ball sailed in.”
He added: “I celebrated that moment but it was still only 82 minutes in the game, we had to keep them out. I felt like it was the biggest chance of my life. That’s why I got my head together and we got the defence organised again. Imagine letting them through with a mistake or an own goal after all that!
“At the final whistle, yes I cried. It was the intensity of it all. It’s an incredible thing to see 80,000 Roma fans celebrating, hugging, kissing, crying… I was floored.”
In a wide-ranging interview, the Greece international dismissed a number of questions about his future – insisting that he is very happy in the Italian capital.
“I knew I was important to Roma when the time came to renew my contract,” he noted. “I understood it from a conversation I had with Francesco Totti and Monchi.
“I wanted to talk to Totti, because we always had a good relationship. So we talked, and I realised that the club really wanted me too.
“They showed from the beginning they wanted me to stay. They trusted me. Then, when I signed the contract, Totti came over and gave me a kick in the backside!”
Manolas also praised Italian fans, and Roma fans in particular, as ‘incomparable’.
“Roma is special because of the supporters,” he said. “I have never seen fans like it before.
"I have never seen such love for a team. When the team is not doing well, everything is difficult. When the team does well, you are a God. And that is football.
“When it comes to love for a team, the Italians are incomparable.”