Mourinho questions Roma 'personality' after dramatic Juve defeat

By Sports Desk January 09, 2022

Jose Mourinho questioned his Roma side's personality after the Giallorossi blew a two-goal lead to lose 4-3 at home to Juventus on Sunday.

Goals from Tammy Abraham, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Lorenzo Pellegrini had put Roma 3-1 up after 53 minutes, with Paulo Dybala having equalised early strike in the first half.

However, a dramatic collapse from the hosts saw Manuel Locatelli, Dejan Kulusevski and Mattia De Sciglio all find the net for Massimiliano Allegri's men between the 70th and 77th minute.

A miserable end to the game for Mourinho was complete when Pellegrini saw his 83rd minute penalty saved by Wojciech Szczesny, and despite Juve being reduced to 10 men when Matthijs de Ligt was shown a second yellow card for the handball that led to the penalty, Roma were unable to force an equaliser.

Mourinho was left stunned after watching his team suffer a "psychological breakdown".

"For 70 minutes there was absolute control. The team played really well, with the mentality of making the game," he told reporters. "Even the approach at the beginning of the two halves was okay, with that desire to press them high, to be in control.

"We did very well for 70 minutes, then there was a psychological breakdown. The 3-2 killed us. Felix [Afena-Gyan] made an extraordinary game for a 'child'. I changed him and the player who enters the first minute [Eldor Shomurodov] who plays wrong, 3-2.

"For a team with a strong personality, 3-2 would not have been a problem. However, fear came out, some of our complexes.

Mourinho added: "The problem with Roma, is that it is made up of 'good people'. In this dressing room there is just good people. 

"If the match had ended at minute 70 we would have said of an extraordinary match, unfortunately it didn't end there and all our limits had gone out, even on the bench, of spare parts."

Roma appeared to be cruising at 3-1, and still ended the game with more shots (19-14), more shots on target (seven to five) and superior expected goals (2.52-1.42) to their opponents, but showed a weak underbelly once Locatelli scored Juve's second.

Mourinho has vowed to recruit a midfielder "with more physicality" during the January transfer window.

"I'm here to help the boys grow," he continued. "I never thought my personality was enough, never thought it was easier to work here.

"I want to use all three years of the contract to affect this team, obviously I need help from the club. Now we will bring in another midfielder with more physicality."

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  • Champions League final: Will Paris showpiece also be shootout for Ballon d'Or? Champions League final: Will Paris showpiece also be shootout for Ballon d'Or?

    Saturday sees Liverpool and Real Madrid go head-to-head in the final of the Champions League.

    After the trophy has been lifted, the medals handed out and the confetti all cleaned up, there will be talk of more individual matters.

    Discussions have already begun about which player will take home the coveted Ballon d'Or trophy this year, with the goalposts slightly moved for 2022.

    As the World Cup takes place in November and December, it has been decided that this year's award will be handed out in October, with the tournament in Qatar being included in consideration for the 2023 gong.

    It will also take into account the entirety of the 2021-22 season, rather than just the calendar year period.

    Therefore, it is probably safe to say that any players who play a key role in winning the Champions League will give themselves a huge advantage when it comes to voting later this year, and there are three in particular who have already been popping up in conversation.

    Here, Stats Perform takes a look at Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Karim Benzema, breaking down the numbers and trying to predict which one might be donning a tuxedo with a beaming smile at October's ceremony.

    Mohamed Salah

    At the halfway point of the season, you would have been forgiven for suspending betting on at least the Premier League's player of the year, and arguably the Ballon d'Or as well.

    Salah was unstoppable as Liverpool looked to push Manchester City in the title race, as well as steer their way through a tricky Champions League group.

    The Egypt international scored a hat-trick as Liverpool demolished Manchester United 5-0, becoming the first away player to score a hat-trick at Old Trafford for over 18 years, since Ronaldo did so for Real Madrid back in April 2003 in the Champions League.

    At that point, Salah had bagged 15 goals in 12 games for Liverpool for the season, and had only failed to score in one.

    He had 23 goals in all competitions to his name by the time he left to compete in the Africa Cup of Nations in early January, where he helped Egypt reach the final in Cameroon.

    It was heartbreak for Salah and The Pharaohs though, losing on penalties to Senegal, before experiencing exactly the same outcome against the same opposition in their World Cup qualifying play-off almost two months later.

    Salah returned to score crucial goals against Inter in the Champions League last 16 and Norwich City in the Premier League, but after that went 11 games in all competitions without scoring a goal in open play, before bagging another two against United in a 4-0 win at Anfield.

    There were a further seven games without a goal at all after that, though when he came off the bench to score against Wolves on the final day of the season, if it had not been for City's comeback against Aston Villa, Salah would have scored the goal to win his team the Premier League title.

    Salah ended the season with 31 goals in all competitions, as well as 15 assists. He lifted the EFL Cup and FA Cup before missing out on Premier League glory.

    If he can get the "revenge" he is openly seeking against Madrid for their 2018 Champions League final victory against the Reds and make it a trophy treble, he could well be top of the list in the Ballon d'Or voting.

    Sadio Mane

    Like Salah, Mane had an impressive start to the season as he scored in nine of his team's first 16 games in all competitions, though had a drier period just before the Africa Cup of Nations, scoring just once in 10 outings.

    Where Mane arguably has the edge over his rivals is his showing in Cameroon. Though he only scored three goals during the tournament, he played a big part in key moments.

    He netted a pressure stoppage-time penalty in the opening game against Zimbabwe that turned out to be their only goal in the group stage, therefore crucial in them progressing. Mane then scored the opener against Cape Verde in the last 16, and a late clincher against Burkina Faso in the semi-finals.

    Mane then took the weight of a nation on his shoulders as he slammed home the winning penalty in the shoot-out against Egypt in the final.

    By the time he returned to club action with Salah, Luis Diaz had arrived at Anfield and already taken up residence in Mane's usual position on the left of the front three.

    It wasn't a problem, though, as Mane simply reinvented himself as a central striker, scoring a vital winner against West Ham before repeating the trick of scoring a pressure penalty against Egypt to send Senegal to this year's World Cup.

    Mane really started to motor as Liverpool looked to win an unprecedented quadruple, scoring nine goals in his last 13 games, including in both the league draw and FA Cup semi-final win against Man City, and then in both legs of the Champions League semi-final against Villarreal.

    His numbers still might not quite match up to Salah or Benzema, with 23 goals and two assists in 50 appearances in all competitions at club level, but he did only score two fewer non-penalty goals than Salah (25).

    His ability to turn important games and a potential medal collection of EFL Cup, FA Cup, Africa Cup of Nations and Champions League all since January should put him in a strong position.

    Karim Benzema

    Calling Benzema the man for the big occasion still doesn't feel like it quite does him justice. The 34-year-old is in the form of his life, showing that age really is just a number.

    Benzema has made headlines throughout the season, mostly for his uncanny ability to come up with important goals in the Champions League, and he is without doubt the main reason Madrid made it past the last 16, let alone all the way to the final.

    Five goals in the group stages from Benzema helped Los Blancos to a last 16 meeting with Paris Saint-Germain, with Kylian Mbappe and company taking a 1-0 lead into the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu.

    Mbappe was dominating again that night, making it 2-0 on aggregate and getting through time and again, until Benzema took over.

    His 17-minute hat-trick turned the tie on its head, and sent Carlo Ancelotti's team through to face Chelsea, who Benzema also scored a treble against at Stamford Bridge.

    Though Madrid struggled in the second leg at home, Benzema's extra-time strike sent them into the semis, where Man City awaited.

    Two more goals from Benzema in the 4-3 defeat at the Etihad Stadium gave them a fighting chance, and though it was Rodrygo who caused all the drama in the closing stages of normal time of the second leg, it was Benzema from the penalty spot who ultimately took his team to the final.

    As this year's Ballon d'Or takes into account the whole season, you would have to assume that includes the 2020-21 Nations League, which Benzema and France won in October, with his goals in the semi-final win against Belgium and the final success against Spain seeing Les Bleus lift the trophy.

    Benzema was also unstoppable in LaLiga, with his 27 goals being nine more than anyone else managed in the Spanish top flight, and he scored an incredible 44 goals in 45 games in all competitions.

    He has also been almost as creative as Salah and more so than Mane, with 83 chances created and 20 big chances created (a chance from which the attacker would be expected to score), while Salah created 85 chances and 21 big chances, and Mane 63 chances and 14 big chances.

    So, there are the three cases. For me, if the Spanish giants win, I think you can close the betting on Benzema.

    However, should Liverpool lift the trophy, it could lead to an interesting few months as people debate whether Salah's slightly superior numbers or Mane's international credentials mean more.

    Whatever happens, you can be sure that whichever horse you back, you will end up having an argument with someone somewhere who thinks Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo should win the crown again.

  • Kane targets breaking Rooney's England record in Qatar Kane targets breaking Rooney's England record in Qatar

    Harry Kane is hoping to break Wayne Rooney's England goalscoring record at the World Cup later this year, as he looks to help the Three Lions improve on their 2018 semi-final appearance.

    Kane has scored 49 goals in 69 appearances for England after moving level with Bobby Charlton's international tally in a 2-1 friendly win over Switzerland at Wembley in March.

    The Tottenham striker is now just four goals behind Rooney's Three Lions record, despite playing 50 international games fewer than the Manchester United legend.

    Indeed, Kane has averaged 0.71 goals per game for his country, compared to Rooney's 0.45, and it looks to be a matter of time before Gareth Southgate's captain establishes himself as the greatest goalscorer in the national team's history.

    Kane also enjoyed a successful season at club level, registering 17 goals and nine assists in the Premier League to help Antonio Conte's Spurs to Champions League qualification.

    Speaking on The Tonight Show, the Spurs talisman expressed his excitement for England to build on their 2018 World Cup semi-final loss to Croatia, as he targeted breaking Rooney's record in Qatar.

    "I'm excited," Kane told host Jimmy Fallon. "In the last World Cup we got to the semi-finals, which was the furthest we've gone in the tournament for 30 years.

    "The country was going mad, but we fell just that one step short. I'm looking forward to this one as we've got a really good coach and a really good team. 

    "We've been building nicely to this World Cup, and hopefully I can break the goal record while we're there."

    Kane could even break the record before the tournament, with England facing four Nations League contests next month, including clashes with Germany and Euro 2020 final conquerors Italy.

    The 28-year-old scored six goals as England progressed to the final four of the last World Cup in Russia, and a repeat performance would also see him become his country's record goalscorer at the competition, with Gary Lineker having scored 10 goals across the 1986 and 1990 tournaments.

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    Toni Kroos believes Karim Benzema has filled the Cristiano Ronaldo void at Real Madrid "to perfection" after enjoying a stunning 2021-22 season that has him in Ballon d'Or contention.

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    Similarly, his record of 0.98 goals per game is also comfortably the best he has managed over the course of one season.

    Add to that a haul of 15 assists, Benzema's 59 goal involvements is second only to Kylian Mbappe (60 – 39 goals, 21 assists), highlighting just how much of a double threat Los Blancos' talisman has been.

    Among his goals have been some crucial strikes as well. He netted consecutive hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the Champions League, before also scoring three times over the course of the semi-final defeat of Manchester City.

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    Saturday's game will be the third European Cup/Champions League final to be contested between Madrid and Liverpool, making it the most common match-up in UEFA's club showpiece.

    Although Madrid won LaLiga with four matches to spare, there is a consensus they have exceeded expectations in the Champions League, particularly given they have had great escapes in all three knockout rounds.

    Despite that, Kroos does not necessarily consider Liverpool favourites, even if he does accept they have been Europe's best this season.

    "Honestly, I think this Liverpool are a better team than in 2018," he added, looking back to Madrid's 3-1 final victory in Kyiv.

    "They managed to retain their best players and they signed a few more. Thiago [Alcantara] sets the standards in midfield, they are still very strong at the back and I think that, in terms of record, they were the best team in Europe this season.

    "But it's still just one game and you also have to take into account that we eliminated them last season in the quarter-finals. It's 50-50."

    He continued: "In a Champions League final you give everything, especially considering that we already had to give everything on more than one occasion to reach the final.

    "Now we're there and we want to win the cup, yes, all being aware of the great rival we face."

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