Juventus returned to action as football in Italy resumed after a three-month pause due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, drawing 0-0 with AC Milan in the second leg of their Coppa Italia semifinal. The result in Turin means Juve proceed to the Final in Rome on Wednesday thanks to the away goal they had nabbed in their 1-1 draw at San Siro before the break.
Speaking after the game, manager Maurizio Sarri seemed satisfied by how his side had started the clash.
“Clearly after three months, getting back to the touchline and seeing the teams out there is a good sensation, even if it’s not the same without the fans.
“I was very surprised and satisfied with our opening 30 minutes, as we moved the ball so quickly and totally dominated the game, even before the red card.
“After that, we slowly dropped our tempo, intensity and mental determination, but that is a risk in an empty stadium. We had been doing so well, playing one and two-touch football, but then we slowed down and lost some sharpness, focused more on individual moves and taking two touches.
“The positive is that we didn’t allow the opponents to play at all. It’s going to take a while to get the fitness and mentality back to 100 per cent. If you compare it to a pre-season game, it’d be early July, but this is worse than pre-season, because it was a much longer break.
“It’ll take some patience, but the first 30 minutes I saw today was an excellent sign.”
The hosts absolutely dominated possession in the beginning stages of the game, passing it fluently and stretching a poor Milan side, but failed to capitalize, including a missed penalty for Cristiano Ronaldo which led to Ante Rebic’s red card soon after.
“I asked Ronaldo to take a more central role, he was pleased to try it out and he played the game he needed to at this moment. He probably isn’t accustomed to missing a penalty, so hitting the inside of the post it could go anywhere and he was unlucky.
“I don’t think playing him a few metres more one way or another is going to make a huge difference to such a strong player. Everyone had a strong opening 30 minutes and then faded away.”
In the second half, Sarri sent on three substitutes together and pretty much killed any fluency Juve had shown until that point.
“I made a stupid mistake. I got swept up in the enthusiasm of having five substitutions, but making three at once was a big risk and at that moment we lost our hold on the game. I evidently ought to spread the changes out more.
“I substituted Douglas Costa out of fear that he’d get hurt, but when I took him off, he still seemed one of the sharpest. He’s a player who can make the difference when fit.”
When asked who of Napoli and Inter Milan he preferred to meet for the Coppa Italia trophy, Sarri remained diplomatic despite his former side winning 1-0 away in Milan in the first leg.
“The important thing is that we are in the Final, then tomorrow we’ll see. Napoli, like us, have lost the home advantage because it’s in an empty stadium. The first leg result might be a slight advantage for Inter, but in truth it’s pretty open still.”