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Mourinho delighted to see corner routines pay off

A bit of set-piece practice on Sunday paid off in style, as Roma beat Spezia 2-0 on Monday evening.

Chris Smalling and Roger Ibanez both nodded home from corner situations as the Giallorossi ran out comfortable winners at the Stadio Olimpico - although boss Jose Mourinho was not happy with all aspects of the performance.

The Portuguese was pleased to see his players profit off some of their pre-match preparations - but would have preferred them to have seen out the game sooner.

“I was happy with both the goals – because we spent 25 minutes yesterday practising corners," Mourinho said.

"I’m happy with the final result but not the performance; we had everything under control and then from about midway in the first half we started to give away the ball and the initiative too easily.

“We didn’t create space for ourselves and it shouldn’t have been as hard as we made it look. I wasn’t happy with that, but I was happy with the way players like Ibanez dug in and gritted it out despite having a knock. But we didn’t control the match, even when it was 2-0.

"When Smalling went off things changed, though, with Cristante back there who doesn’t really love that role. The full-backs were tired and that meant the opposition were still in the game until the end.”

On Saturday you will need your best players against Atalanta. How are Smalling and Ibanez?

“We’ll have to see. Ibanez played 90 minutes but Smalling did not. They are different players, Smalling came off because he felt something. Ibanez always plays so let’s just hope all he is feeling is a bit of tiredness. Atalanta play with a really high level of intensity and they have a great squad. Zaniolo … I don’t know. He has a bit of a knock. It’ll be tough for him [to make it].”

The best teams come on even stronger in the second half of the season – how do you think Roma are looking?

“If the season was one without injuries, suspensions and tiredness we would have the potential to be a really good team, one that could keep on improving and, while not able to compete for the title, could chase something important. We get a lot of cards, though, it’s almost like we are a team of killers.

“There’s a fair bit of tiredness there too and when that happens the players lose a bit of their sharpness and that ability to keep making progress. Let’s see what we do in the transfer market, although not this one [in January] as we won’t look to do anything massive. We need a few more creative players. I am critical because I want to be able to sit in the dugout and watch with a bit more calm.

“But Mancini, Pellegrini, Zaniolo, El Shaarawy … that is a lot of players for a squad like ours to be without. I want to say well done to [Spezia coach] Thiago Motta too – he will need all his wits about him to reach the targets his team has.”

What did you tell him after the game? What advice can you give?

“I can’t tell him anything, I don’t think I am some sort of master – even with another coach who was one of my players 15 years ago. I have experience in coaching but with guys like Thiago, Dejan [Stankovic] or [Andrey] Shevchenko I always say you can’t compare the careers they had with the ones of the players they are coaching. That’s always a bit of a risk. I asked Thiago if he’s enjoying it and he told me he is – so he needs to push on with everything he’s got.”

What do you make of Felix Afena-Gyan's red card?

"I prefer not to speak about the referee. In my opinion he did okay. I did not see either of the two incidents that led him to book Felix and I would rather not say anything. But, that being said, we seem to continue to have this incredible record of picking up yellow cards. Even the yellow cards before, to Vina and Kumbulla ... it's too much.

"We are a bit of a naive team, we are certainly not aggressive, and yet we still have this tally of yellow cards."