Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger hailed his players’ spirit after their penalty shootout victory over Roma.
Roma won 1-0 on the night to level the aggregate score, but the Premiership side prevailed on penalties to take their place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Roma coach Luciano Spalletti admitted the pressure got to his players but he was proud of how his injury-depleted team performed on the night.
“It was a very painful defeat but the team must be proud of what they did during the whole 90 minutes and extra time,” he said. “Penalties are really cruel, we know that. We were prepared for penalties and we saved one substitution for the last minute, just to put on a penalty specialist in Vincenzo Montella. I confess that I was sure we’d win on penalties because we would have deserved it for what we did during the game despite all the difficulties.”
“However, we have to learn to lose and accept defeats with our heads up because we did everything we had to do. It was a heroic night for my players, for what they did in a very difficult period. We had several injuries ahead of the game and players who were forced to play despite not being 100 per cent. As if that was not enough, we had more injuries during the match.
“I really could not ask for more of my players, we just lacked a bit of luck. I think the advantage of the English teams right now is that they are calmer than us. It feels like they have less pressure than us. I’m sorry especially for the fans because they supported us with great affection tonight. They were wonderful.
Meanwhile, victorious coach Wenger praised his side for the determination they showed on a tricky night in the Italian capital.
“I believe Roma defended much better than they did in the first leg,” said the Arsenal boss. “They were more determined in the challenges and did not allow us to dominate the game as we had done in the first leg. I give a lot of credit to Roma for that.
“I would not say there is much difference between English and Italian teams because all the ties were very balanced. Maybe the spirit is the difference as we have more confidence at the moment. You could see it today when we missed the first penalty but we continued to believe we could do it.
“We needed to show great determination tonight. We were a bit nervous at the start and conceded a goal more for that reason than for their attacks. However, I must pay tribute to my team. There was a huge mental strength tonight. Our character has been questioned many times but I was sure that this team is very strong.”