Juventus struggled for long periods against an iridescent Atalanta side that came to Turin and outplayed their hosts. The Bianconeri, who have often found themselves on the opposite end of some dubious handball decisions this season, were the beneficiaries of the new handball law twice to peg back La Dea, both dispatched with aplomb by Cristiano Ronaldo including one at the death to go eight points clear at the summit of Serie A, with just six games left to play now.
Speaking after the game manager Maurizio Sarri acknowledged his side had been put to the sword especially during a first half display that had Atalanta fans and neutrals drooling.
“We were up against one of the form teams in Europe right now.
“They are aggressive, so organised, and at the start we made the mistake of wanting the ball passed to feet, but they pounce on these situations and it’s how we conceded the goals, by losing the ball.
“Playing against Atalanta is very difficult. They seemed much sharper than us in the first half too, but we managed to get back into it and fortunately the second half was much better.
“We had conceded the second goal when we were taking control. We were more energetic, but compared to the first half, we defended much higher and weren’t so passive. It allowed us to win back the ball more often in midfield and that’s what changed the game.”
A bounceback performance was needed after the shambles at AC Milan earlier in the week, and even though Juve started brightly, it was only in the second half where they were able to exert some semblances of control.
“Facing Atalanta right now is difficult for everyone, not us. They were coming off nine consecutive victories. It wasn’t a physical problem at Milan, because the team basically fainted. You can’t lose energy in 30 seconds.
“We weren’t as sharp tonight compared to San Siro, but the team held out better over the 90 minutes and was more consistent.”
As far as team selection Miralem Pjanic stayed on the bench as did Gonzalo Higuain who came on to replace Juve’s only bright spark Paulo Dybala in the second half.
“This was a tough game for our forwards, less so for Cristiano, more for Dybala, as he likes to go deeper to get the ball and it’s very dangerous against Atalanta. In fact, we introduced Gonzalo Higuain, as he could help open the spaces up more.
“Pjanic had an adductor issue, was not in great shape, so I preferred not to risk a muscular injury when playing every three days and we made different choices.”