Montella refuses to criticise Roma flops
Roma coach Vincenzo Montella said his side exited the Champions League with their "heads held high" despite succumbing to a 3-0 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday night, and a 6-2 hammering on aggregate.
Having lost 3-2 in Italy in the first leg, Roma had a formidable task awaiting them in Ukraine and were unable to overturn the deficit, with goals from Tomas Hubschman, Willian and Eduardo sending Shakhtar through to the quarter-finals.
Marco Borriello missed a penalty for Roma at 1-0 down and Philippe Mexes was shown a red card prior to half-time, but Montella, who has been appointed caretaker in the wake of Claudio Ranieri's departure, refused to condemn his players.
"We leave the competition with our heads held high,'' Montella said. "Before the game I asked my players to be consistent and improve aside from the result. I think my players took a big step in that respect.
"I'm happy with the performance of my team as, until we went a man down, we created a great deal and had a good approach against a fine squad. We had five or six shots on goal in the first half, then the red card changed everything. You cannot play at certain levels down to ten men for 50 minutes.
"My team went out for the win. I see a group that is united and that is why we cannot be demoralised. When I took over, the team lost determination during negative moments. Instead against Shakhtar, we were always solid and mustn't be downhearted, as we are on the right track."
Roma, currently placed sixth in Serie A, now face Lazio in their city derby at the weekend and Montella wants his side to muster a response at Stadio Olimpico.
"We must forget about this defeat and concentrate on the positives," he said. "Against Shakhtar we attacked but we were unable to find the goal. I hope we will score in the derby."
Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu was unhappy with the conduct of Roma's players, as midfielder Daniele De Rossi was involved in a flashpoint with Shakhtar's Darijo Srna.
"Roma's players were rough," Lucescu said. "Srna was wrong to make fun of the Italians after the goal and during the break I told him how angry I was and I would replace him if he didn't stop it. In any case, the reaction of Roma was very unprofessional."