Too much I think – Roberto De Zerbi accepts Roma clash above Brighton level

By Sports Desk March 07, 2024

Roberto De Zerbi acknowledged Brighton’s 4-0 hammering at Roma was a reality check for his Europa League novices.

The Seagulls’ adventure in Europe turned into a nightmare at Stadio Olimpico after they conceded twice in each half to lose heavily in the club’s first ever European knockout tie.

First-half goals by Paulo Dybala and Chelsea loanee Romelu Lukaku put the visitors on the ropes, but worse was to follow with Gianluca Mancini and Bryan Cristante able to score in quick succession to essentially kill the last-16 tie ahead of next week’s second leg.

This defeat made it three in a row for injury-hit Brighton, who were without a number of key individuals, which has contributed towards their season derailing in recent weeks with poor Premier League form coupled with an FA Cup exit leaving the Europa League as the club’s main focus.

“We played our game. We gave our best. Maybe our best now is this performance,” De Zerbi admitted.

“I think Roma is much better in terms of experience to play this type of game and we suffer a lot. Too much I think. We are not used to playing this competition and today we paid everything.

“We paid (for) a squad not so long, we paid to play away in this stadium, we paid with too many injured players and for us, it is the first time so we have to improve.

“We have to progress and if we want to compete in this level, from the owner to the coach to the players we have to progress to reach one level higher.

“We are proud we reach this game. We know very well the situation. I know very well the situation.

“I spoke with the owner a lot of times before February on the transfer market and I told him the problems we are finding, but it is the first time Brighton plays this competition. Europa League final eight is a big level for us so we have to improve to progress.”

Roma broke the deadlock after 12 minutes when Leandro Paredes’ superb through ball found Dybala, who rounded Jason Steele and fired into the empty net with VAR subsequently awarding the goal.

Brighton did respond with Simon Adingra, who had an early cross deflected onto a post by Roma’s Evan Ndicka, able to pick out Danny Welbeck, but Mile Svilar denied the former England international’s header with his feet.

Welbeck would be thwarted again by Svilar before half-time, although by this point the hosts had extended their advantage.

A poor touch by Lewis Dunk from Paredes’ long ball allowed Lukaku the opportunity to dribble into the area where he slotted beyond Steele for his 18th goal of the campaign.

More Adingra magic created another opening early into the second period, but Welbeck scooped over and Roma hit Brighton with a double sucker-punch.

 

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First, a Stephan El Shaarawy cross was poked home by Mancini, who had looked marginally offside but VAR awarded the 64th-minute goal before four minutes later another El Shaarawy centre was headed home by Cristante to ensure De Zerbi endured a night to forget on his return to Italy.

He told TNT Sports: “Yes, we create a lot of chance and maybe the same in terms of numbers, but if you watch the game, you can understand Roma played with different power, with different speed and with different habits I think. Habits to play this game.

“We are not used to playing at this level and so we showed our problems, but I love this club, I love these players and I know we played 20 per cent of our potential.”

Meanwhile, Brighton supporters’ were alleged to have had objects thrown at them inside Stadio Olimpico.

“We are aware of the bottles, coins and lighters being thrown by home supporters into the away end. We have reported to UEFA and Italian police and requested immediate action be taken,” a Brighton statement read.

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