Juventus were dominant in spells at SPAL, coming away with a 2-1 win which ended up closer than it should have. A fine finish from Cristiano Ronaldo and then an exquisitely-worked move ending with an Aaron Ramsey chip had the visiting side up 2-0 and cruising, but a suspect penalty call via VAR gave the home side hope for the last twenty or so minutes.
Speaking after the game, manager Maurizio Sarri was not disappointed with the performance coming after two straight away losses.
“I get the sensation the team is clearly improving, it’s just a pity we don’t kill matches off. It’s good to see we are creating opportunities with a certain degree of consistency, including rattling the woodwork seven times in our last three games.”
The referee was unable to view the incident leading to the penalty due to a malfunction with the review monitor on the pitch, with the final call coming from the VAR referee.
“We are conceding a lot of penalties, which is unusual considering how we tend to defend outside the box. Tonight we had a penalty given against us by VAR when the VAR wasn’t working! If that had been the other way, I can only imagine what they would’ve said…
“It seems like a great injustice if the VAR can make a decision and not the referee. Why is the referee even there, in that case? La Penna explained it to me after the game, that this is written into the rulebook. I don’t agree with it, but it’s there.”
Club captain Giorgio Chiellini made his first start of the season, marking his return from an ACL injury, and was replaced after 55 minutes by Matthijs De Ligt.
“He had an hour today, 20 minutes in the last game and during his presence on the field, we did not concede a goal. He can’t play every three days, that’s for sure, but over the last 10 days he has improved a lot and returned to fitness much quicker than expected.
“If he continues to improve at this rate, he could play one of the big matches coming up. We have to see how Giorgio reacts to the strain, so it’s not an issue of choosing the right game so much as the right moment when Giorgio is in good shape.”
Sarri did appear displeased that the team had conceded a goal again, especially so soon after scoring themselves.
“At certain moments of the match, we defend in active fashion, so pressing the opposition high. The moment we don’t do that, we get passive and once again concede a lot of shots on goal.
“We’ve had this problem since the start of the season, it’s getting more and more limited to various stages of the game and hopefully we can eradicate this weakness entirely.”
With no sign of the coherent ‘Sarri-ball’ that fans have been waiting for, the manager was asked when that would come to pass.
“It depends what people are expecting. The team is growing, I think and hope we have large margins for improvement, above all in the consistency of our performances and intensity throughout 90 minutes.
“Coming here three days before the Champions League and playing with such concentration was not to be taken for granted, so it’s a step forward.”
Juve are in action midweek again, this time in the prized Champions League.
“Our objective must be the Scudetto and the Champions League a dream. In life sometimes it’s good to chase your dreams and miss your objectives.
“The problem with the tournament is that there are very few games in the knockouts and each one can be decisive. It’s a competition that is within reach of 10-12 teams, so whoever wins in the end is not just the best, but also the most fortunate.
“Last season Chelsea played in the Europa League with 13 wins and two draws, yet we risked going out at one stage and had to qualify on a penalty shoot-out. So we risked not winning it, despite being unbeaten and winning 13 matches.”