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    De Rossi: “We really struggled in the first half. A penalty on Zalewski”

    Daniele De Rossi spoke to the media after Roma's 0-0 draw with Lecce at the Stadio Via del Mare. This is what the boss had to say...

    Would you say this is a point gained given how the match went? 

    “If we look at how the match went, I think we really struggled in the first half. We struggled with their physicality, with their long balls up to the strikers, the way the beat us to the second balls. That happened to us in the first half against Fiorentina too.

    “It's something we have to improve because football is a beautiful game to play and talk about, but sometimes it comes down to those duels, being a bit rough and ready when the game is played more direct, on quite a hard pitch, where the ball didn't bounce well and it was windy.

    “If you're not able to switch it up and play a bit more scrappily, you'll find teams that are willing to do that who can overrun you a bit.

    “I find it hard to talk about a point gained given the chances we had, even if they had chances of their own. But we knew it would be a difficult match: they beat Fiorentina and drew with Milan. It's a nasty pitch so you expect to struggle a bit more.”

    Were your team lacking a bit of energy in the duels?

    “We were lacking a bit of everything. If I put it all down to the duels, then I'd be blaming the players, but it wasn't just that. Our build-up play was lacking. We kept trying to play through the middle and we prepared for this game slightly differently.

    “We knew that, if they'd played with four – and that was a doubt we had – we'd be able to create a numerical advantage on the flanks, so the idea was to try and go wide. But we played too many balls through the middle, which enabled them to win possession and push forward.”

    Compared to other matches, Roma kept hold of the ball a bit less and seemed a bit more hurried in trying to play the final ball. Then we saw that move with Bryan Cristante and Stephan El Shaarawy's backheel for [Houssem] Aouar, which just shows that even when you're struggling, with the quality players you have, you can always turn performance round.

    “Yes, and that's why we need to keep the game on an even keel in terms of chances and controlling play. Winning a few second balls, a few aerial duels keeps the match balanced, even on a pitch where you might struggle, like this one, because we knew that we'd get an opportunity or two. They did too, to be fair, but from that series of counter-attacks we gave away too cheaply. We had that fantastic move you mentioned but their keeper did really well to make himself big.”

    What did you think of that contact with Nicola Zalewski in the area?

    “Honestly, during the game I didn't see anything but we have i-Pads and I saw that it was a clear penalty that wasn't given. It's a real shame because it was important for us to win today, especially these games when you're not at your best and have to scrap a bit more. I've seen teams win league titles, avoid relegation and qualify for the Champions League by playing some great football but also by picking up points in games when they weren't at their best.

    “If it's a penalty, you have to give it, especially in an age when penalties are given for treading on someone's little toe. If that's a penalty but someone crashing into you trying to get the ball isn't, I don't understand that. In Florence, there was a touch on a shoulder, the player went down and it's a penalty.

    “I prefer a kind of football where that's not a penalty. I prefer that. I like a kind of football where [Francesco] Acerbi's offside against us is not offside. I prefer that. But the rules have to be the same for everyone, otherwise it becomes more difficult for us and easier for those dealing with the rules.

    “I heard [DAZN referee expert Luca] Marelli saying that if he'd blown, it would have been a penalty and if he hadn't blown, it would have been a penalty anyway. So what shall we do? What are the rules? If I go through a red light, it's ok. If I go through a green light, it's ok. But then we'll have accidents!”

    [Marelli speaking] "I agree with De Rossi when he says he'd like – as I would – a kind of football where those aren't penalties. He mentioned what happened in Florence with that penalty that really shouldn't have been given. In my opinion, this is a penalty where, if it's given by the referee, VAR wouldn't intervene. But I also think that sort of incident shouldn't lead to a penalty.

     “I've seen so many penalties given with less contact, a lot less force, and the replay showed a stud  brushing against a little toe. I played football myself. I don't know which is worse: this situation or another one where someone treads on a foot and the replay gives you the certainty that you can give a penalty because no one can say anything against it.”

    What's the next week going to be like? How do you imagine the derby?

    “The week's already begun. We don't have much time to lose. We have to prepare for a game with not much material to work with because Lazio will only have played two games with their new coach, so we'll have some doubts, as we did today, because we'd only see Lecce's match against Salernitana.”

    “[Igor] Tudor is very different to Maurizio Sarri. He's a very good coach and he's already had one excellent result. It will be a great game, a really tense game, a very important one and a very difficult one.”

    Will you be able to get Paulo Dybala in top condition over the next few days?

    “Yes. We knew we'd only bring him on today if we needed him. We always need him – any team would. But we knew we'd have to make sure he didn't play too long.

    “If the result had been clearer, one way or the other, I wouldn't have put him on. He's almost fit. He's good and has trained lots of times. He needed a few more training sessions and we didn't want to risk giving him too many minutes.”