• IT
  • Home News

    Mourinho content as key decisions pay off

    Everything the boss had to say following Sunday's late win over Genoa...

    Coach Jose Mourinho was understandably content after a game where every decision seemed to come off for him, as Roma ran out 2-0 winners against Genoa on Sunday night.

    Substitute Felix Afena-Gyan scored twice – his first goals in professional football – to clinch the three points, on a day where injuries and absences had left Mourinho scrambling to find tactical solutions.

    Here’s what the boss had to say after the game.

    Let’s start with those images of Felix Afena-Gyan coming across to hug you after his first goal…

    “I promised him that [if he scored] I would buy him a pair of shoes that he really likes, that cost 800 euros. So he came over to me and told me not to forget that! Tomorrow morning I will go and buy them.

    “Then tomorrow after the Primavera will be playing – and I’m sorry for Alberto De Rossi but Felix won’t be playing with them.”

    What sort of game was that for you? A tight first half, and then Roma found a way through…

    “Deadlocked – but with some quality football, we were dominating. I think we lacked a bit of directness at times. We were always in control, with lots of possession of the ball – which we also moved around well. A lot of players did really well but I think Mkhitaryan in that role had a fantastic game. We always had control and we did well to prevent Genoa counter-attacking.

    “In the second half they dropped even deeper, so there was even less space and because of that I thought that perhaps Felix would offer something different. And, just like against Cagliari and Milan, he came on and immediately caused the opposition problems with his energy and physicality. I thought that he might be able to help today and he ended up helping a huge amount. But the whole team played well.”

    What were your first thoughts when you saw Felix in training for the first time?

    “The Primavera train near us, on a synthetic pitch though – which can be a handicap in terms of the growth of some of these young players. Felix, along with another four or five, has been training with us since the start of the season. When I first watched him, I think the thing that most impressed me was his calmness in front of goal.

    “If he might not be a phenomenon in terms of his technique, in front of goal he is deadly. I was also struck by his humility, because often among the new generation you find kids who think they already know everything, who don’t have that humility. But he is the opposite. He is absorbing our attitude, both mine and that of his teammates. You can see he’s learning off everyone. It’s great to see that evolution. I am just sorry for coach De Rossi because he has lost Felix – although I am sure he is very happy for the boy too.”

    It felt like Felix opened up the game. But, in a game where you needed to work really hard across the park, players like Stephan El Shaarawy also had a huge impact in terms of the sacrifices they made and their work rate.

    “I totally agree. When Felix came on he changed the flow of the game. He comes on and is going up against a side that has already run a lot, because we had most of the ball. Even without creating a lot, and obviously without scoring, Tammy [Abraham] and [Eldor] Shomurodov put in the work and kept making runs. Rick Karsdorp played really, really well.

    “El Shaarawy put in a massive effort to adapt to the way we were playing – because he is clearly a classic winger, an attacker, and in this game he worked really hard for us. But this boy [Felix] has that intensity too. In a different way. Shomurodov was running out of gas and so he came on and gave the team a different edge.

    “I always thought we could win the game, although the thought that we might end up drawing did flicker across my mind in moments and that would have been frustrating – even if I would have still had a positive feeling about the attitude the players showed and the desire they had to win. Even against Venezia we played well, but we have been coming off a few tough results and I think even the players were feeling the pressure a bit before this one.”

    How is Nicolo Zaniolo doing – why did he not appear in this one? How do you see him fitting in the formation you used today?

    “The truth is this squad has not been built to play in the system [we used today]. But your same question could be asked about Carles Perez, or Stephan El Shaarawy, or Mkhitaryan – in the end, with the issues we currently have, we had to find a way to play without a natural left-back to call upon. What are we supposed to do? Play in a four, or play in a three? It’s not easy.

    “For Nico, his best position [in this system] would be to play as one of the two forwards, but with a bit more room to play in. And that’s what I was thinking about in the second half; Genoa had dropped even deeper and were tiring, but were digging in to preserve a point that really would have been valuable for them. But with less space and more players digging in, I felt like Felix would be a more direct and dangerous option.

    “But I was there in the dugout and, with the experience I have, I watch everything – and one thing I noticed and that struck me was that the players all celebrated the goals, both the first and the second. And Zaniolo was there in the middle of it, which seemed to me like the exact opposite of a negative attitude – it shows he’s a team player and wants to be. And, on Thursday or Sunday, or possibly both, he will certainly have the chance to play because he’s a great player.”

    Are you feeling a bit calmer about things now?

    “I’m feeling calmer because I won (laughs). We worked really well this week. Yesterday, in the press conference, I said that the work we had done in the week had gone in the bin – but that wasn’t really true. I put Jordan Veretout in Bryan Cristante’s spot and then moved Mkhitaryan in there. I felt like Micki, with his technical ability and the experience he has, could do everything that he ended up doing. The only thing he didn’t quite manage was a goal – but he really covered a lot of ground and, in my opinion, was the best player on the pitch.

    “So that was a positive, because we played with three technical players in the centre of the park who moved the ball well and tried to get it forward as well. So I’m really happy to have that option. Today is one of those days when a coach goes home feeling good about himself, because everything he thought up ended up working out.”

    What was it like to see Andriy Shevchenko?

    “We met up before the match. He gave me a nice present, a traditional present that the coaches do in England when they are playing at home: present the other coach with a bottle of red wine. We talked for a long time, with the referee too.

    “Obviously, after the game I happy for myself and sorry for him. When he one day beats me, then he will be happy for himself and a bit sorry for me. But the main thing is we had a chance to talk for a while and that he is in love with this crazy business – because today you have to be a bit crazy to coach. But he is pleased to have this challenge and I hope that he wins a lot.”