Philippe Mexès was reluctant to discuss the goal that broke the deadlock against a dangerous CFR 1907 Cluj side, but the modest defender was clearly satisfied with his night's work after helping AS Roma clinch a crucial first UEFA Champions League win of the season in Group E.
Mexès brought the Stadio Olimpico to its feet with a 69th-minute strike through a crowded area after being picked out by David Pizarro's quickly taken corner. Marco Borriello doubled the Giallorossi advantage with a superb goal two minutes later and although Ionuţ Rada pulled one back with 12 minutes remaining, Roma's rearguard, marshalled by the blond-haired centre-back, resisted a Romanian revival and held on at 2-1.
"I'm very happy," Mexès told UEFA.com. "
These are three essential points to take us forward, although we suffered a lot and we certainly shouldn't have suffered as much as we did. But the most important thing was that we won."
The hosts had created countless goalscoring chances towards the end of the first half only to find Cluj goalkeeper Nuno Claro in defiant mood. However, they could have been two down to the Romanian champions, whose swift counterattacks caused Claudio Ranieri's men constant problems. Lacina Traoré was unlucky to hit the bar and the post either side of the interval, but Roma eventually found their eye for goal, inspired by the former AJ Auxerre man.
"The goal could have been scored by me or by anyone," insisted Mexès, whose strike lifted his team to second place in Group E, level with Cluj and three points behind FC Bayern München, 2-1 winners at FC Basel 1893. "Obviously I'm delighted to have scored my first Champions League goal but the main thing was that we won. We must qualify from this group by concentrating on Roma, playing our own game and not worrying about what anyone else does. We're on the right track and we must continue in this vein."
Paolo Castellini echoed his fellow defender's words, though he was more complimentary about his team-mate's display. "Mexès's goal was fundamental," he said. "It broke the deadlock and he played brilliantly at the back. Football is like that – it can give and it can take away, but tonight Philippe gave a lot.
"I'm pleased. Although I'd played twice before in the Champions League [with Real Betis Balompié] you never get used to this great stage. It was amazing, a new and completely different emotion. I lived it to the full. Now we believe anything is possible.
If we keep working hard and improving as we have been there is no limit to what we can achieve."
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