Roma coach fumes over 'schoolboy mistakes' in second-half collapse
AS Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco was left angry and baffled by their second-half collapse against Shakhtar Donestk yesterday morning (Singapore time), saying he felt as if he had fielded two different teams in the Champions League clash.
The Serie A side looked comfortable as they led 1-0 at half-time but the Ukrainian champions hit back to win 2-1 in the first leg of the last-16 tie at the Metalist Stadium.
Said Di Francesco: "It was as if we fielded two different teams tonight.
"The difference was that in the first half, we played to hurt them and in the second, we sat back, which I don't understand.
"We conceded a goal from a move started by their central defender which was easy to read, which is annoying, but that mistake doesn't justify our performance at the end," he added.
"We committed schoolboy mistakes from players who have international experience."
Turkish youngster Cengiz Under marked his Champions League debut for Roma with a well-taken 41st-minute opener.
But second-half strikes from Facundo Ferreyra and Fred left the tie finely balanced ahead of the return game at the Stadio Olimpico in three weeks' time.
It could have been worse for Roma had it not been for the heroics of their goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who recently has been linked with a move to English Premier League club Liverpool.
Shakhtar head coach Paulo Fonseca lamented: "The only reason we didn't win by a bigger margin was a brilliant display from the Roma keeper."
Di Francesco also found some praise for his No. 1.
He said: "He has presence in goal and he makes the difficult saves look easy.
"I like the way he interprets the role. He is turning into a great goalkeeper."
Roma, looking to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in 10 years, started brightly while Shakhtar, who returned to competitive action only last weekend after the winter break, left the visitors too much space in midfield.
Four minutes before half-time, Under put Roma ahead, the 20-year-old forward latching onto a clever through ball from Edin Dzeko to send the ball into the net.
But, after the interval, Shakhtar, who had won three of their four previous meetings with Roma in the Champions League, moved up a gear.
A long ball forward by fullback Yaroslav Rakitskiy picked out Ferreyra, who dribbled into the box to slip the ball under the onrushing Becker.
With 19 minutes left, Fred put Shakhtar into the lead with a magnificent free-kick.
His powerful left-footed shot from 20 yards out dipped viciously and flew into the back of the net off the underside of the crossbar for his first Champions League goal. - REUTERS, AFP