Juventus showed all of the cohesion that fans have come to expect as Massimiliano Allegri’s players put aside their scoring woes to score four times while they could have easily had another four in a big 4-2 win against Zenit St Petersburg, a victory which confirmed qualification for the Champions League Round of 16 for the eighth consecutive year.
The weekend defeat had sent the squad into retreat at the JHotel, but the coach would have been pleased with the reaction he got out of his players and commended them on their performance.
“I am a coach, not a watchdog, we trained very well yesterday. Tomorrow, the guys will have a day off, but on Thursday, we start again because we must recover the lost ground in Serie A, on Saturday we have a tough game against Fiorentina.”
[Note: The club later corrected that statement, saying the players would be allowed to go home Tuesday and Wednesday nights, but have training as usual at Continassa on Wednesday.]
As expected, Allegri was displeased with the late goal conceded, which has plagued the club this season, and was also the first goal scored against the Bianconeri in the Champions League by an opposing player.
“We played well technically, with great intensity, but we conceded a goal in the final five minutes and we must improve. That’s when we conceded goals against Sassuolo and Udinese.
“We wanted to score the fifth goal, but we put the result in danger, running the risk to concede on the counter-attack. We had to finish the game with the ball at our feet.
“Paulo Dybala played a great game, but everybody played well. We have reached the first target of the season, we have an important match on Saturday, but not more than this.
“I congratulated the guys tonight, but we need to improve, especially in the final five minutes.”
The Argentine was effervescent in the game, causing havoc in the Zenit defence virtually every time he got the ball. Had his finishing been better, he would’ve had a hatful of goals on the night.
Dybala celebrated one of his two goals with a tribute to Michel Platini, lying on the ground much like the Juve legend had done many, many years ago after overhauling his 104-goal tally.
“We played as a great team and we achieved the result. We’ve reached the first target, now we want to go to London and get the first place,
“Platini is an idol for me and for football, I hope he sees it. I wanted to celebrate like this when I equalled his goal tally against Inter, but it was not the case in that game.”
The 27-year-old’s celebration choice was ironic on the day that the French legend was being charged for fraud along with Sepp Blatter for fraud just three-odd hours away from Turin.
Another star of the game was summer signing Manuel Locatelli, who also spoke after the game about what changed in the ritiro to elicit this performance.
“We told each other that we must be strong players, but before that, strong men.
“We played really well and we must continue, following what coach Allegri says. We must give everything as we did tonight.
“We are the first ones to be aware when we don’t play well. We want to give everything for the fans now.”