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Mourinho: "We head back to Rome tired but happy and proud"

After Roma reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League coach Jose Mourinho shared his thoughts on his side’s performance.

Let's start by talking about the attitude and spirit shown by your team. It was a tough encounter in which Real Sociedad posed you a lot of problems.

"Given the scoreline from the first leg was only 2-0 Sociedad were always going to throw caution to the wind at home and do everything they could to make history. They played well in front of their fans, spurred on by the fantastic support.

"However, like you said, our lads were fantastic. From the offset they were keen to get a goal. For the first 10 to 20 minutes, in which you’d expect them to dominate, it was in fact us who were in control. We were all over them and I can’t believe Paulo Dybala’s effort didn’t go in. We showed defensive solidity and were ready to hit them on the counter, and as the minutes ticked by we became closer to achieving our objective. That being said, you can’t ever just sit back, and I threw on Tammy Abraham and Stephan El Shaarawy to freshen things up and to find a goal.

"Congratulations to my players – they deserve all the credit. This season’s Europa League is a tough one – we’ve knocked out two top sides in RB Salzburg and Real Sociedad so far. We’ve now made it to the quarter-finals and many top sides have reached this stage. I’d like to thank the many fans who came here from Rome and experienced the rollercoaster of emotions with us."

How much of your daily work has contributed to Roma improving in Europe?

"It’s the lads who deserve the credit. While I help my contribution is small. They deserve the praise, all of them do. We’re aware that it’s not been an easy ride – Nemanja Matic had fitness issues today and was unable to play, which complicated things for us. Then there’s Gini Wijnaldum who hadn’t kicked a ball for six months and then was suddenly forced to play two full games in the space of three days. These are issues which we face but I’m grateful to the guys for overcoming them. We head back to Rome tired but happy and proud of what we’ve done."

Then there’s also Andrea Belotti and Lorenzo Pellegrini, who’ve both just come back from injury.

"Exactly. That’s the sacrifice and courage I was referring to. One of them had undergone an operation to their hand a few days ago while the other had thirty stiches in his head. This group of lads can’t be faulted from this point of view. That’s why I stick with them through thick and thin. We’re a tight group. We’re not the best team in the world but our team spirit is fantastic."

What are your thoughts on tomorrow’s draw?

"I’m not fussed. There are teams left in the Europa League who I don’t think should be there. I think a team which is knocked out of a competition shouldn’t be able to drop down into another. I understand that’s how the rules work, though. It cheapens the competition if a team which was in this season’s Champions League can win it. The Europa League is for teams like us, who’ve been in it since day one this campaign. Lazio won’t now be playing in their third different European competition this season, right? That’s how it is, unfortunately for them."