Roma got off to a winning start in the Europa Conference League group stage by beating CSKA Sofia 5-1 on Thursday.
Having to come from behind, it wasn’t as easy as the scoreline would suggest, until Roma’s quality shone through in front of goal.
Lorenzo Pellegrini equalised with a delightful scooped effort on the bounce, before Stephan El Shaarawy continued his resurgence with a curler from the edge of the area.
After the break, Pellegrini added another in slightly fortuitous fashion after a good assist by Riccardo Calafiori, Gianluca Mancini reacted to a rebound to get in on the act and Tammy Abraham scored his first goal at Stadio Olimpico to seal the big win.
There will be plenty to learn from this match, but at least it is a positive start and the Mourinho momentum continues.
Here’s what Mourinho had to say after the game.
On what he didn’t like about the performance
“I’m happy with the result. The quality of play I didn’t like. We didn’t keep the ball in the way we had trained over the last couple of days. The midfield lacked intensity, the two full-backs didn’t push forward enough and we lost a lot of defensive duels […] I can’t say that we played badly, but we didn’t deserve to win 5-1. It’s a harsh result for CSKA. We deserved to win, because we were better and more organised, but I wasn’t happy.”
“We were united, the group is really together. We are really building a true team here. But we’ve already spoken about it: if we are a real group now when we win, then we need to be even more of one when a defeat comes. That’s the moment when it’s really important we are a team.”
On whether he is improving Pellegrini
“We are all improving together – I’m improving as well. That’s something you need to ask him, really, because he’s a player with a lot of quality, with amazing potential. I don’t want to say much more than that. Yesterday he told me that he will sign his contract extension in the next few days – I think even that will give his rapport with the fans even more of a boost. He’s a great player, he’s the captain and now he’s signing a new contract. This creates a bond with the fans and that is very important for us.”
On options from the bench
“Tonight we had a strong substitutes’ bench, which would have allowed me to change things even if we were losing at half-time. I had a lot of attacking options there. So that meant I felt comfortable starting a few different players. I’ve already said that the big difference between us and the other big sides in Italy is that they have different options in every position and we don’t at the moment.”
On getting out of the group
“The players showed the right attitude, they showed they wanted to win and get through this group as soon as possible. I think we need to get to 12 points for that – so we need nine more.”
Francesco Totti’s autobiography is released in English this month by deCoubertin – you can pre-order it here.