Mourinho: ‘Roma in control against Napoli’

Jose Mourinho explains why he was convinced Roma would beat Napoli even before the two...

Mourinho: ‘Roma in control against Napoli’

Jose Mourinho explains why he was convinced Roma would beat Napoli even before the two red cards and admits he was ‘perhaps a little harsh’ on his players in training.

It was a dramatic evening at the Stadio Olimpico with constant discussion on the touchline and the pitch, 13 yellow cards and two red for Matteo Politano and Victor Osimhen.

Only after the first dismissal did the Giallorossi take the lead through Lorenzo Pellegrini and Romelu Lukaku sealed the 2-0 result with the last kick of the game.

“Unfortunately, the last game before Christmas changes the mood of players and coaches. I talked to the lads about this, we needed to make it a happy Christmas for the fans too,” Mourinho told DAZN.

“We were able to stay close to where we wanted to be, it was very difficult, you might not agree, but my feeling was after five minutes that we would win. Roma played very well XI against XI, had two incredible chances early on and were always in control of the match against a team that has far more quality than us.

“Obviously, against 10 men we scored the goal and made the most of the situation, also with our changes and the way our players interpreted the game. I think we fully deserved it.”

Edoardo Bove impressed in midfield and hit the woodwork as well as forcing a desperate Alex Meret save, so Mourinho was asked if the youth product brings necessary intensity and aggression to cover for Bryan Cristante and Leandro Paredes.

“Today we tried to keep a high press and to do that, we need those two along with Bove, as Edoardo bites ankles, breaks forward and forces Lobotka to go deeper. He is not that fast, but has remarkable stamina.”

With Paulo Dybala injured, Roma made the rare choice of starting Andrea Belotti with Lukaku.

“We decided to play with Gallo and Lukaku to have more physicality, a more direct approach in attack to the two Napoli centre-backs.

“When we were against 10, then creativity came on with Pellegrini and El Shaarawy, knowing we needed their technique in that situation.”

Mourinho had praise for his defenders after last week’s 2-0 defeat to Bologna and a slight apology too.

“After a tough week of training and a coach who was perhaps too harsh on them, I found players who were more prepared for the battle. Ndicka won more duels, Llorente had so much trouble against Zirkzee and yet today with Osimhen he won many individual duels. Gianluca Mancini did not train all week, he is in pain, but he did it for the team. He is a champion.”

Roma go into Christmas in sixth place, three points adrift of Bologna in fourth, having leapfrogged Napoli in the standings.

Mou was asked if the Giallorossi patrons set a specific objective for him before the season kicked off.

“I prefer to set my own objectives, which is take it one game at a time. There is a very simple reason for that. It is not a criticism, it is nobody’s fault, but we have a group of players with a difficult medical history. If we are all ready, I have no problem saying we can fight it out with everyone – not for the Scudetto, obviously – but for fourth place.

“Unfortunately, we have these difficulties. There is also the Financial Fair Play situation that is tough to deal with. So I don’t like to talk about objectives. We are united, it is an extraordinary group of lads who always try to help each other out.

“What we wanted to do in January on the transfer market is not something that we can do, but we go forward. We’ll see. We won against Napoli and next we have Juventus.”

The first game after the break on Saturday December 30 is a trip to Juventus, who are the only side keeping up with leaders Inter.

“Inter and Juve are flying for two reasons, because they have good coaches, but also remarkable squad depth with two players for every role. If we had everyone available, we’d have a strong squad. And a decent coach.”