Fonseca says Ajax clash is biggest moment of Roma’s season

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Europa League - Round of 16 Second Leg - Shakhtar Donetsk v AS Roma - NSC Olimpiyskiy, Kyiv, Ukraine - March 18, 2021 AS Roma coach Paulo Fonseca reacts REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

ROME (Reuters) - AS Roma coach Paulo Fonseca described Thursday's Europa League quarter-final second leg against Ajax Amsterdam as the biggest game of the season and urged his players to remain focused in defence.

The Serie A side, Italy's only remaining representative in European competition, won the first leg 2-1 in the Netherlands to give them a slender advantage ahead of the return game at the Stadio Olimpico.

"We all know that this is the most important game of the season so far," Fonseca said at a news conference.

"I want to see a Roma side that fights as if there was no first leg, a team that fights to win, knowing that they will want it too.

"I know that the guys understand the importance of this moment."

A defensive mix-up handed Ajax a deserved 1-0 halftime lead in the first leg, but Roma goalkeeper Pau Lopez's penalty save sparked a thrilling comeback after the break, crowned by Roger Ibanez's winning volley in the dying minutes.

However, the Dutch side, who are currently 11 points clear at the top of the Eredivisie standings, mustered more than twice Roma’s number of shots and shots on target to demonstrate their attacking threat.

"The tie is not over. They are strong and will come here to win, we must be focused," Fonseca said.

"In this kind of game, the details are fundamental. We have worked on defensive details; the important thing is that the team remains concentrated in defence.

"We need to be emotionally balanced. In Amsterdam we had difficult moments, but we maintained the balance and changed the game. I want this balance again tomorrow."

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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