Juventus won 1-0 away in a difficult first leg clash of the Coppa Italia semifinal at Atalanta under trying circumstances. A brilliantly-constructed early Gonzalo Higuain goal made all the difference, with the legend Gianluigi Buffon returning to make a penalty save to preserve the clean sheet.
After the game, manager Massimiliano Allegri was relieved with the result.
“It’s an important victory we constructed in the first half, playing good football, moving the ball from one side to the other and stretching Atalanta.
“In the second half, Atalanta naturally fought back and some fatigue set in, but we held out well. It’s an important result, although nothing is decided until the second leg.
“The lads had a very good 45 minutes. We should’ve done better moving from right to left in the second half, but we got a bit tied up and didn’t develop the moves quite as well as we should’ve.
“Miralem Pjanic has some moments where he tries to pass it through the eye of a needle, when that was the moment of the match where we had to spread it wide and try to stretch Atalanta out.”
On Buffon, who marked his 40th birthday just two days ago.
“I am happy for Gigi, who hadn’t played in the Coppa Italia for five years. He hasn’t forgotten everything he knew just for being out of action for 45 days.
“He had a rest for a few weeks, perhaps he needed to put his feet up, but he’s back now and he’s our first choice goalkeeper. Wojciech Szczesny did well in his absence and is a champion, but Buffon is Buffon. The goalkeepers are helped by the defence and the rest of the team working together to protect the back line.”
Allegri felt Juve left chances on the pitch to seal the result, but is happy to move on from the game.
“Atalanta didn’t really have a shot on target other than the penalty, until the final 10 minutes. We should’ve done better on the counter and didn’t provide enough support for Higuain. We must improve, but it’s a good result.