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Di Francesco: A top performance despite the away goal

Read what Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco had to say in the wake of Roma's 2-1 win over Porto on Tuesday night.

The Giallorossi grabbed a first-leg advantage in their last-16 tie thanks to Nicolo Zaniolo's brace.

Adrian Lopez scored a late away goal for the Portuguese champions.

Did that goal at the end take the wind out of your sails?

“It's a pity about the result. I congratulated the lads for their attitude and focus at both ends of the pitch. We were really solid. We knew what we wanted to do and we struck at the right time. We fashioned lots of openings to hurt our opponents and gave very little away.

"It's a shame about the goal we conceded because it wasn't really a mistake of ours, although we may have dropped off too early and opened ourselves up. It was a good all-round performance. We made a few small mistakes but that can happen, especially after the spell we've been through. It's disappointing because we deserved to win by two goals but I'm very happy with what was a top performance.”

Nicolo Zaniolo came good on the night. Is this a star in the making?

“We have to let him develop at his own pace and he needs to remain level-headed, as he is on the pitch. After his first goal I told him to use his head. He did that and scored the second by playing smart. He played in a position he's not used to but he performed really well. We have a great player and we knew that. We're happy to have him and he deserves the praise.”

Have Roma taken a step up now? Or will that happen only when you play as you did today against the smaller teams too?

“We can't turn back time. Sometimes this is how you improve. After failure, you rise again. We've fallen and it knocked our pride. It shouldn't have happened but it did. Now we have to keep producing performances like this and get everyone back on our side.”

Were your central midfielders Bryan Cristante and Lorenzo Pellegrini key today?

“I've played both of them in more attacking roles before but what they do best in 4-3-3 is they know when to close down at the right time. When we won the ball back we were very dangerous. We also kept things tight between the lines because Porto were looking to play through balls. I played in that position my whole career – it's tiring but it allows you to express yourself well going forward too.”

Do Roma need to believe they're a great team?

“Yes, but we'll improve by making mistakes too. I'm optimistic about this group of players. You don't produce a performance like tonight's if you don't believe in yourself. We've done a lot of work on their heads lately to make them understand how good they are and that they must play as one. Individuals are able to stand out thanks to the work you do as a team.”

Have you thought about how you're going to play in the return leg?

“We won't go there looking to hold onto the result – that would be a huge error. We'll set out to score. Games are always open and we saw that today as a goal came from the smallest of things. Before the match I told the lads we needed to keep things very tight but that you need to take risks too. That's crucial.”

 
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