Juventus showed some extraordinary character to stay strong despite going down to ten men and still win comfortably at a hostile Mestalla to open up their 2018-19 Champions League campaign. Cristiano Ronaldo appeared to be sent off for an inconsequential bit of contact with a Valencia player, and that injustice seemed to fire up the Bianconeri, who put in one of their better displays of teamwork and strength to not only win away in the premier European competition, but also to do it in a matter that completely demoralized their Spanish opponents.
After the game, manager Massimiliano Allegri commended his side.
“The lads did really well, as we had numerous chances even before Ronaldo’s dismissal, then we deservedly took the lead.
“It was only natural that towards the end we allowed Valencia some more room, but Wojciech Szczesny didn’t really have a save until the penalty in stoppages.
“Naturally, the tension rose even further with the red card. It’s not easy to play here, as Valencia are aggressive, the atmosphere is passionate and the lads above all did well to contain Valencia’s attacks.”
The manager chose to not make a substitution after going down a man, with Emre Can already having come on to replace an injured Sami Khedira.
“We were playing without an extra forward, so nothing changed. The one thing we should’ve done better was finding Blaise Matuidi between the lines, as he should’ve then drawn Mandzukic forward and Alex Sandro with him.”
Allegri refused to be drawn too deep into the Ronaldo debate.
“I can only say that VAR would’ve helped the referee in this decision. Going down to 10 men in the Champions League for an incident like that is disappointing. We risked losing tonight with this and we’ll miss him for the next games too.”
Federico Bernardeschi had one of his best games since joining Juve, and Allegri was happy to see it.
“I was in trouble after last night’s training session, as everyone was in good shape. The only one I wasn’t going to start was Douglas Costa, as when something like that happens on Sunday (the red card for a spitting incident and consequent four-match ban), you get tense and risk hurting yourself.
“Bernardeschi has become a real Juventus player and one worthy of the big games in a short period of time. He has grown so much in his maturity and technique, so I have no qualms now about playing him even in the biggest fixtures.”