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It will be ‘very difficult’ to turn tie around, admits Roma boss after loss

Shakhtar hit back from a goal down to take a slender lead into the second leg.

Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco bemoaned his side’s inability to hold on to their lead after Shakhtar Donetsk came from behind in the first leg of thire Champions League last-16 encounter.

Young Turk Cengiz Under scored his fifth goal in four games to give the visitors a 1-0 lead in Kharkiv, but Facundo Ferreyra equalised early in the second half and a stunning free-kick from Fred earned Shakhtar a 2-1 victory and a slender lead in the tie.

Di Francesco said on “My team has everything it takes to play 90 minutes at a high level so the mistakes we made are mental. I told the team to play the second half the way we played the first, but what I saw on the pitch is that team was happy to defend. We need to work on that.

“My team lacks the ability to maintain momentum and perform in spite of difficulties. We lost our concentration at 1-1. Shakhtar are a great side. We’ll do everything to turn this around, but it’ll be very difficult.”

Shakhtar’s opening goal came from a long ball over the top, which was missed by Alessandro Florenzi, who started the game despite struggling with illness.

“I wouldn’t blame Florenzi for the goal we conceded,” said Di Francesco. “It’s a team job to help each other and cover for team-mates. I would field the same starting line-up again.”

It could have been significantly worse for Roma had goalkeeper Alisson not been in terrific form, producing great saves to deny Ferreyra and Taison as Shakhtar dominated the second half.

Di Francesco said: “Alisson’s biggest quality is not just just his saves, but his overall presence – he gives us a great deal of confidence. He doesn’t dive just to look pretty in photos, he does it when he has to to make saves.”

Shakhtar have only once reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League, back in 2011 when they defeated Roma.

Coach Paulo Fonseca said: “We didn’t actually start the game too badly, and even created a good chance, but didn’t have a player to poke the ball in. Later there was a problem with our positioning. Roma were aggressive while our lines were stretched. We sorted this after the break and that helped us win.

“The team performed well in the second half. It wasn’t easy to keep up that pace after a long winter break. The only reason we didn’t win by a bigger margin was a brilliant display from Roma keeper.”

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