Juventus were soundly beaten today by Ajax Amsterdam in the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal to go out of the competition on a meek note. Like they did against holders Real Madrid in the previous round, the Dutch side turned up the style, playing fluid football and shredding the Old Lady time and again as the eleven men on the pitch along with their hapless manager looked on.
Speaking after the game, Massimiliano Allegri did not mince any words about his side’s poor second half.
“We had done well in the first half, albeit a little too frenetic when we won back possession. Football is vicious, as you concede a fortuitous goal, the fear sets in, we got stretched out in the second half and should’ve had a different approach.
“Ajax fully deserved their result and qualification to the semi-finals.”
Juve struggled with the injury bug, with Mario Mandzukic, Giorgio Chiellini, Douglas Costa, Mattia Perin and Martin Caceres all missing the game and Paulo Dybala exiting at halftime.
“When you reach the quarter-finals, it’s better to have as many options as possible, because these ties are decided by details, substitutions and options off the bench.
“We had a lot of players struggling with fitness issues and the two legs were only a week apart. We had a young player like Kean in the second half, but there’s a knock-on effect, as it allowed De Jong more time on the ball and Ajax took control.
“There are many young players in the squad who need to play and gain experience. Some might’ve paid at having two such big matches in the space of a week.
“We did well in the first half, less well after the break. The first leg was more balanced than this evening, of course.
“I was convinced we’d have a different second half, but that wasn’t the case. We have to tip our hats to Ajax and give them credit for an extraordinary second half performance.
“Let’s not forget, this team was in the Europa League Final a couple of years ago. Our problem was we split open and didn’t have the patience to play our game, considering the options we still had to come off the bench.”
The game seemed to change after a lucky bounce fell to Donny van de Beek to slot home the equalizer.
“The defence had to be lined up. Even if Bernardeschi had sprinted back, he still wouldn’t have been in time to make that offside.”
Was there a feeling of over-reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo in this Juventus team?
“No, absolutely not. Ronaldo has given us a lot over the course of the campaign, but when you reach the quarter-final, you need every player.
“I’ve always said that to win the Champions League, you need to reach a certain stage in good form and with good fitness levels. We’ve been in a bit of an emergency situation for a while and that can only be sustained for so long.
“We were missing four or five players tonight. Daniele Rugani and Leonardo Bonucci had good games for 50 minutes or so, but we lost our unity and organisation, giving Ajax the advantage.”
The winning goal came from Juve target, defender Matthijs De Ligt who got free at a corner.
“De Ligt was meant to be man-marked, but he got away. Details make the difference. On the three goals we conceded to Ajax, unfortunately two and a half counted as our gifts.
“Ajax absolutely deserved to win and qualify in the second half. Juventus cannot give away goals like this in a quarter-final. We should’ve paid more attention and been more careful.
“We were too hasty to move it forward once we won back possession, whereas we should’ve moved Ajax around better. It was a good first half, but Ajax become devastating when allowed spaces to run into and we lost our shape.”
Allegri’s future has been talked about for some time now.
“I met the President a couple of days ago and told him that I will stay at Juventus. We’ll sit down with the club and think about the future.”