Once again Juventus were taken to the brink by Lokomotiv Moscow, this time requiring a wondergoal from late sub Douglas Costa to secure all three points and qualification to the Round of 16 of the Champions League.
Speaking after the game. manager Maurizio Sarri was contrite, admitting his side had been overwhelmed by their hosts.
“It was not one of our best performances. We were too open to the many counter-attacks and we knew that they would take this sort of approach to the game. We were too open in the first half, lost the ball too cheaply, so it was impossible to immediately go and win it back.
“After the break, we had too many men in front of the ball and the passing was too slow, which created the big risks we’d lose it and get caught on the counter.”
Sarri did commend some of his squad for their effort, none more so than Costa with his brilliant goal.
“At least I saw good character from the players, as they really wanted the win at all costs and achieved it with Douglas Costa’s moment of magic, in conjunction with Gonzalo Higuain.
“Douglas Costa has only just returned from a long injury, so he’s not yet the player he was. He’s still a little timid on the acceleration, but still has so much quality that he can play in any area and make the difference.
“We needed to rest some players, because we had six games in 18 days. We knew Aaron Ramsey and Douglas Costa didn’t have 90 minutes in them, so preferred to alternate them. We wanted to avoid fatigue.”
Cristiano Ronaldo appeared to throw a tantrum when he was withdrawn for Paulo Dybala, but Sarri insisted it was for his own good.
“Ronaldo is not in great shape at the moment, as over the last few days he’s had a bad knee, so to compensate for it he is putting more strain on the adductor.
“He was already irritable towards half-time because it was causing him problems. On a sprint, he made a movement I didn’t like the look of, so I was afraid he’d really hurt himself and decided it was best to take him off.”
Costa was thrilled to have secured the points with his goal.
“It is one of my most important goals in a Juventus jersey. I am happy to have come on and helped the team. I played as a trequartista a few times five or six years ago, so now I have to adapt all over again to this role.
“We played as a team today and that allowed us to bring home the victory.”
Captain Leonardo Bonucci’s goalline clearance preserved the win, and he renewed his squad’s commitment to playing like Sarri wants.
“Douglas Costa’s goal allowed us to take the three points. At most, my goal-line clearance would’ve helped us take one point, but it was an important moment anyway and we need to be more careful.
“The team tries to play the football that the coach wants for long periods, but when we need to suffer under pressure, we can do that too.
“Lokomotiv Moscow were focused on the counter-attack and they were dangerous with those in the first half, as we had to improve our passing distribution. We increased the pressing after the break, had more shots on goal and eventually took home the three points.
“We’ve achieved our first target for the season, which is qualify for the Round of 16, so now we want to end this mini-run of games well on Sunday against Milan.”