Jose Mourinho was pleased with his side's response on Sunday night, as they drew 0-0 with Napoli at the Stadio Olimpico.
The Giallorossi needed a response after the midweek disaster in Norway, and they managed that as they prevented the early league leaders from winning for the first time this season.
Here's what Mourinho had to say about the game...
What was the match like for you – is a draw a good result?
“I thought it was a great game. That’s the feeling I got, although perhaps you saw it differently. With the pressure surrounding this game, I got the feeling it was a quality contest.
“A 0-0 draw seems like a fair result to me, although it could have been 1-0 to us and we would have felt that was fair and if it had finished 1-0 to them they would probably have thought the same. It was a really tough game for both sides.
“I thought it was a high-quality contest where both sides showed great intensity and concentration. There wasn’t fear there, but there was certainly respect. The defence really worked hard and the other players did their part to close the spaces on the counter. I really thought it was a high-quality contest.”
Defensively you were almost perfect – what changed today?
“The two full-backs are doing better, the give-and-take between Veretout and Cristante in the centre of midfield was done really well too. One of them always felt comfortable bringing the ball out because they knew the other was covering behind them.
“Obviously in this game, considering how Napoli like to play, it was important that Zaniolo and Mkhitaryan closed down the spaces and they did that well. Today, because of the way Fabian Ruiz plays and how important he is to their attacking rhythm, we had Pellegrini drop a bit deeper and, rather than a 4-4-2 out of possession, Abraham played centrally – leaving the defenders to take the ball into midfield, where we weren’t pressing. It was a really intense game and there are a few tired players in there, but it is a tiredness I like because it means they’ve worked hard.
“The game had a lot of transitions in it – they tried to play really directly through Osimhen and then bring others into play around him. When we dropped a bit deeper then Insigne started to play in central areas, and that was when it became important for Veretout and Cristante to close that space down.
“It was a tough game, they had their chances and so did we. And perhaps it was a unique game too: both coaches sent off.”
Why were you sent off?
“I don’t know, because I wasn’t happy with a decision. Nothing special, I didn’t tell the referee to take a walk or anything. It was a game where both myself and Spalletti received red cards, but I don’t think the referee had a bad game.
“I thought he refereed the game well, he was balanced. It’s a game where no-one goes home totally happy – but everyone goes home with the feeling it was a fair result.”
If you wanted a response after Thursday, you got it. You tried to get the victory right until the very end...
“When you put in such a terrible performance like we did, the game that follows it becomes very, very difficult from a mental perspective. It carries a completely different weight to it. And playing Napoli is not easy anyway.
“But we played well and we tried to win the game. As I said yesterday in the press conference, it’s the sort of game where you need to acknowledge the quality of the opposition. I think that was the case for both of these sides. I think they wanted to win the game, but we did too.
“The truth is that a 0-0 draw is not always the most exciting to watch, but from the bench I was tired out watching the game too!”
How do you explain your decision to leave five players who played in Norway out of the matchday squad entirely?
“Now you are putting me in a tough spot. Those are changing room matters, those are messages to the changing room. They were poor performances that, even with a thin bench, one made up of kids, it was an important message I wanted to send. There are games and then there are games. It will have happened to you guys before that you’ve gone home after a game having not played well, but that match will always be a part of my history and it’s hard for me to forgive that.”
Will they be able to get back into your good books?
“Of course, I’m expecting to have them back. They don’t have a black mark against their names and everything is behind them now.”
Were you happier with the performance today, or the one against Juventus?
“They were two different games. We dominated more of the game against Juventus, we had more control of the ball. We didn’t play much in transition, partly because Juventus dropped after going 1-0 up and didn’t press like Napoli did today.
“In terms of how we used the ball, today we were more of a side in transition. Against Juventus I liked the personality we showed and the way we dominated the game, even by building from the back.
“Today I liked the organisation, and the way we controlled – in a certain sense, because controlling him is far from easy – Osimhen’s attempts to get into space. I liked both performances, for different reasons. There’s clearly something there to work on and learn from.
“But we have played against two of the three or four best teams in Italy. We’ve taken just one point but the feeling after both games is that we went toe-to-toe with them.”