Jose Mourinho blasted some of his Roma players, including Houssem Aouar, for being ‘superficial’ in their approach to the Europa League. ‘Some give their all, others turn their noses up at this competition.’
The Giallorossi knew they had to win in Geneva to keep the pressure on Slavia Prague going into the final game, but Romelu Lukaku’s opener was cancelled out by Chris Bedia after a defensive error from makeshift centre-back Bryan Cristante at the dawn of the second half.
There were several wasted chances from Paulo Dybala, Leandro Paredes and Leonardo Spinazzola, so with Slavia Prague beating Sheriff Tiraspol 3-2 with the last kick of the game, second place and the play-offs now seem pretty certain for Roma.
“We had important opportunities, but the start of the second half was something that happens too often to us,” Mourinho told Sky Sport Italia.
“It’s a pity that you don’t have a camera in our locker room at half-time, because every time I make it clear to them that the opponents playing at home who are a goal down will come out fighting. That is a natural reaction, it is something we expect.
“Yet again we were superficial in our attitude, in our interpretation of this moment of the match. There are players who once again missed an opportunity to prove themselves, for example Aouar.
“There are several who are on the bench and come on in Serie A with a great attitude, then in the Europa League they come on with this sluggish attitude, like they are not accustomed to being on the bench and then do not improve the game.”
With second place, Roma will go into the March play-offs against one of the teams that finished third in their Champions League groups.
“We are heading into another play-off, it will be difficult against a side that drops down from the Champions League. It is another two European ties, one of them at the Stadio Olimpico with a full house, the fans showing their love. I don’t want to make a drama out of going into the play-off.
“The drama if anything is that we had the wrong attitude from these players and those who come out for the second half like that, repeatedly. I honestly do not understand it. I coached 150 Champions League games, which are much tougher, and yet it seems like there are people who don’t have a great history in Europe and play these fixtures with the bare minimum.
“There are those who give their all for 90 minutes and those who seem to turn their noses up at this competition.”
Cristante had to fill in as a central defender this evening, because Gianluca Mancini was not fully fit either, with Chris Smalling and Marash Kumbulla long-term absentees. Now Evan Ndicka will be suspended for the final group game too.
“Sadly, we only have one Cristante. He sets a great example for the others, as he plays with immense concentration. Ahead of him, Paredes I think co-ordinated possession very well, he is a World Cup winner, he has the right attitude.
“There are people who feel comfortable with this superficial approach and we pay for it in results.”
Mourinho was asked if some of those disappointing players will pay the price for this and he confessed that is not going to happen because Roma are so short-staffed.
“Nobody will pay for it. Guardiola can do that, if he’s not happy with one, he says goodbye, kicks him out and picks someone else. I cannot do that here. I can only try to keep hammering at them every day in training to get the best out of this group.”
The Special One had also said in his press conference that Roma seemed more comfortable playing at the Stadio Olimpico than on their travels, particularly in European competition.
“Perhaps it is in the DNA of Roma, some are in their comfort zone at home and get fired up with the crowd, whereas it’s tougher away from home. We could’ve won the game even with these things I did not like,” he added.
“We have some players who do not have a sense of responsibility, who do not want to let me know they are ready and ought to play more. Maybe they lost their voice by asking, because they will play more when the others are dying. That is because when the call comes to step up, it’s always the same players who give a response.”