Jose Mourinho was understandably proud of his side following Saturday's 4-1 away win over Atalanta.
In a blistering display in Bergamo, Tammy Abraham (twice), Nicolo Zaniolo and Chris Smalling all got on the scoresheet to secure a thrilling three points for the Giallorossi.
Here's what Mourinho had to say about the game afterwards...
That was the best Roma have been so far this season, would you agree with that?
“I think so, yes. An amazing spirit from the team. The players realised that against Atalanta you are never going to be in control of the game for 90 minutes, so there are going to be spells where you are going to have to dig in and defend deep. It’s not going to be possible to press them high up the pitch the whole game. And the team really were very focused in that regard.
“The referee did really well, because I think the way Atalanta player – aggressive, intense, lots of one-on-one battles and with a noisy crowd behind them too – I think today there was the need for a referee with the experience and quality that he has. He was really, really good today.
“But we were really good too; in the battles inside the box, in the way we defended against the dangers. And then after that we did well with our counter-attacks and the way we really hurt a team that, being behind, took a lot of risks. We did a really good job of assessing the match and reacting accordingly.
“So well done to the boys. Guys like Karsdorp, who had his shinpads cracked in half and was struggling but realised we didn’t have anyone on the bench that could replace him. It’s that type of sacrifice that a team always needs. And, finally, after hearing for so long about how long it has been since Roma last beat a top side, let me just point out that it has now been almost 20 minutes since we beat a team in the top five.”
After a win like this, can Roma start targeting the teams ahead of them in the table?
“We can have a look. But we can also take a look at our substitutes’ bench, we can take a look at some of the young and inexperienced players there. It’s one thing to be able to make changes to improve the side and another to be forced into changes out of necessity. We need some of our injured players back.
“Nevertheless, for the players it is important they recognise the attitude they showed today, because whenever you are playing against sides like that – and I’m not talking about Inter, because there level is different to any other side in Serie A, but I am talking about Napoli or Milan or others – then if you want to take points off them it is not enough just to be tactically organised, or to have worked hard in the build-up. You need to have a certain type of attitude on the pitch that, today, every one of the players had.
“Before the game I joked with them that I hadn’t felt the earthquake in Bergamo – because it was us who had come here to shock everyone. Every day you guys would talk about how it’s been 19 months since Roma beat a big side … now it’s been 22 minutes I guess.”
Tammy Abraham showed his quality today – could he score 20 goals this season?
“Definitely, definitely. That’s what he was doing in England, and obviously scoring goals is the hardest part. But as far as I’m concerned I was never worried: what I was worried about was that Tammy would find the right attitude in a team that isn’t going to dominate the league. Because we aren’t a side that is going to dominate every game.
“But he comes from somewhere where his side have usually always had the ball, where his side have always been the better side and so he has always scored goals and played well. But for us, a forward needs to do more than just score a goal or two in order to play well for us – he needs to do a lot of other things as well.
“For example, today when we were in the low block the players knew they couldn’t take too many risks once they had the ball back, because Atalanta press really hard. So it was important for us to have an option up the pitch to move the ball, a player who would use their body and their physicality to win duels against players like Palomino, Djimsiti and Toloi. I think he’s improved a lot in that aspect of his game. He will always score more goals, I have no doubt about that.”
Jordan Veretout also stood out to us; he ended up being the midfielder joining the attacks and he did that brilliantly.
“Amazing. And that’s because Henrikh Mkhitaryan had a tougher defensive task on his hands than Jordan. In the first half, in order to press their three defenders, we had Micki on Toloi and then he would have to continue the press as it moved, sometimes getting all the way across to the right-back. Jordan, meanwhile, had Zaniolo helping him with some of that side of things. So they were using up energy in a different way.
“But Jordan used that to his advantage in order to make runs and create problems for them. I really liked how the team responded throughout the game, even during the tough spells.
“Because when you aren’t the best side, or even when you are, there are always moments when you are really going to have to struggle. And we were really strong and brave in those moments. Little by little we are improving and today was a great example of that evolution in how we respond to difficult situations. For example, how we started the second half after conceding a goal in injury time.
“In the past we have sometimes restarted the game already on the back foot, but this time we were strong, we defended well, we stayed focus and we caused problems on the counter-attack. We played really, really well.
“Obviously we needed the three points today, but this win also illustrates a great step forward in the team’s mental approach.”
And what does a game like today mean for Nicolo Zaniolo?
“I think it’s really important. I always look at the details that might seem small to some, but to me are always important. He got a yellow card really early on and another Nico, one without a level head or a bit too much emotion, would have either got himself sent off or needed to be substituted at half-time.
“Instead he managed to calm himself, he worked out the best way to have an impact on the counter … he really did a great job. More than his goal I was happy about that aspect from him. He kept great control of his emotions.”