Roma head to Spain for next Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg with a mountain to climb, but with enough belief in their baggage despite going down 2-0 to Real Madrid in the home opener.
A deflected Cristiano Ronaldo effort and a Jesé strike appear to have put Madrid firmly in control of the tie. Yet according to right-back Alessandro Florenzi, who had the misfortune of causing that deflection, the Giallorossi can gather a lot from their performance at the Stadio Olimpico.
“I think it was one of our best displays of the season,” said Florenzi, whose stunning goal when Barcelona visited in the group stage was crucial to getting Roma into the knockouts. “We were up against a top team who, ultimately, are one of two or three sides who can fight to win this Champions League.
“We’re disappointed because we played really well and it’s not nice to see this result – I personally don’t really think we deserved it. The fans applauded us at the end and that shows they were happy with what they saw, which means we’re heading in the right direction.”
It will still be a tall order for Roma in Madrid, as it was a big challenge for captain-on-the-night Florenzi at home. Roma coach Luciano Spalletti had detailed him with dealing with the threat of Ronaldo, and for almost an hour he succeeded.
When the Italy man did concede that little bit too much space, though, the Portuguese provided the punishment. “You can’t give Ronaldo an inch,” the 24-year-old said. “You can go right or left against him but it’s just the same. Maybe I was a bit unlucky because the ball took a deflection off me and went in right under the crossbar.
“It wasn’t what we needed, but I still believe it was one of our best showings. It’s a Roma performance that we need to build on. We’re definitely not going to give anything away, not even at the Bernabéu.”
Midfielder Miralem Pjanić also admitted it had been “hard to stomach” losing after such a “courageous” effort – from which there were several positives to take nonetheless. “Real are a good team but they didn’t really make things that hard for us and we deserved at least a goal,” he said. “I don’t think the result’s a fair reflection but we need to move on.
“We can’t be happy losing, but at least we tried and we caused Real problems on more than one occasion. The team’s responding well to [coach Luciano] Spalletti and now we’ve got to keep things going the way they have been in the league.”