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    Mourinho: “A great reaction. We had a strong bench today”


    Our boss Jose delved into his side’s performance in their 3-1 win over Udinese.

    In light of how the first half panned out did you expect the second half to be more straightforward?

    “We’ve only got ourselves to blame. The game was there for the taking yet we didn’t seize the opportunity. We let the opposition back into the game when it seemed that it wouldn’t be an option for them. Fortunately – but credit to us – we reacted really well.

    “Looking around at our bench today we had players capable of changing the course of the match. I think I made some good choices in this regard.

    “The lads responded well on the pitch. It seems that we really thrive when attacking the Curva. It’s as if we want to set a record for goals scored and points obtained in the latter stages of matches. However, there will be occasions in which we won’t manage this and we’ll drop points. When your opponent is on the ropes you need to deliver the knockout blow. Yet we didn’t do this.”

    Can you tell us about the celebration? You hugged a ball boy, a real Mourinho-style celebration. 

    “I went wild after our third goal, which put the game out of sight. We became disorganised as a result of the substitutions, in dead ball situations and generally in defence. Even though we scored late on there was still ten minutes to play and our defensive solidity had me worried. I felt that we’d either seal the game or have to hang on. We managed to score and I breathed a sigh of relief.

    “Fortunately it was a ball boy and not a policeman, because he was the person nearest to me [laughs].”

    Photo credit: ALBERTO LINGRIA

    Roma dominated the first half and really tried to take the game to Udinese.

    “One thing we’ve been working on is winning the ball back. It’s hard to deal with Udinese’s transitions - they’ve got more energy than us and they play with greater intensity and pace. They’re quicker at pouncing on loose balls. As such the solution is to avoid losing the ball as much and establishing more control in the game. We did well in this regard.

    “What I didn’t like about our first half performance was that after opening the scoring it was clear that Udinese were fragile, and that was when we should’ve put the game out of sight.”

    Once again the Lukaku-Dybala-Azmoun trident helped win it for you. Could playing all three from the start be an option or would it unbalance the team?

    “It would lead to a degree of imbalance given that [Paulo] Dybala and [Sardar] Azmoun aren’t naturally disciplined and defensively-organised. When one of them plays the team’s balance isn’t affected, but with two on them on the pitch we run the risk of losing control.

    “I love how Azmoun plays but he’s still coming up short in order to be the Mourinho kind of player in defence and defensive transitions. However, his ability is amazing. Today I could’ve even brought on  [Houssem] Aouar or [Andrea] Belotti. We had a strong bench today.”

    Roma sit three points from fourth place and are within touching distance of reaching the Europa League last 16. Are the team’s prospects starting to change?

    “No, because I’m still not convinced by the core nature of our team, given we’re still a side which suffers from ups and downs. Sometimes I’m given an unwelcome surprise. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’ll just say that if we get Renato [Sanches] back and if [Chris] Smalling hits the ground running in January we’ll give it all we’ve got. We’ll see where that takes us.”

    You’ve now got two away games, in the Europa League and Serie A. How do you make your team thrive in such scenarios, like a gang of bandits? 

    “It’s normally the case that you’re born a bandit: you don't become one. I was born a footballing bandit. I try to rub this off on the players – let’s see if this works.”