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De Rossi full of praise for Zaniolo after star turn

Daniele De Rossi felt Roma had every right to feel content with their efforts after beating Porto 2-1 in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash on Tuesday night.

Nicolo Zaniolo scored twice for the Giallorossi – although substitute Adrian Lopez’s away goal for the Portuguese side means the tie remains very much in the balance.

Speaking after the game, De Rossi acknowledged that the away goal put a different complexion on proceedings.

“There are some regrets about their goal, because we were compact and organised as a team for much of the game – giving them little or nothing – and then we give up a goal like that, from a long ball over the top,” De Rossi said.

“Especially right after we had made it 2-0, it knocked us a bit. It’s a shame because throughout the game we were really switched on – and that’s what we’ve been asking of ourselves for a while now.”

He added: “No-one knows better than us that 2-1 is not a result you can relax with, but it is still a good result. We would have been happy if you had said before the game that we would win 2-1. Clearly, we don’t want to concede over there and we will need to play a focused match, like we did today. It’s very different from a 2-0 lead, but we still start in the lead.”

The game was marked by a number of heavy challenges from the visitors, not all of which were punished by the referee.

“Yes, we studied their games, we knew that they are a very different side from the one we faced a few years ago,” De Rossi added.

“They play a bit more physically and vertically than in the past, when Lopetegui or Nuno was the coach. They are strong and physical, a bit different to a normal Portuguese side. But we expected that and weren’t caught out. We also have Ivan Marcano with us, who played for them in the past and was able to give us a bit of insight about their side.”

The star of the night, however, was undoubtedly Zaniolo – and De Rossi had plenty of praise for the youngster after being told he had become the youngest player ever to score a brace in the competition – on what was his first-ever appearance in the knockout rounds.

“It’s another small milestone, perhaps not even a small one, that adds to what he is showing game after game and even training session after training session,” De Rossi said.

“He has an incredible natural physique for someone who is only 19 and also has great technical quality. In my opinion, as perhaps with everyone now, he is already a very good player – and can become a great one.”

De Rossi, meanwhile, completed a second 90 minutes after missing almost three months with a serious knee problem.

“I played with someone man-marking me for almost the full 90 minutes, but we knew that Conceicao always asks his players to mark the deepest midfielder,” he said.

“So I knew it was coming. It’s not fun for us but it’s a game where you have to sacrifice yourself for the team and try and do even more defensively when you can – so it wasn’t really an issue.”

 
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