Juventus lived on the edge but got the goals when they mattered to pick up a 2-0 win over Udinese at home, something that can be considered a positive as they had frittered away a similar two-goal lead away in the first leg of this fixture in a draw earlier this season.
Speaking after the game, coach Massimiliano Allegri was still frustrated by how his side had drifted out of the game in a spell that almost gave the visitors hope.
“We held out mentally and technically for 120 minutes on Wednesday, but there was a moment tonight when we just left the game.
“That’s not right, we always have to be fully focused, especially when there aren’t enough fans to keep us on our toes, because for 10 minutes we ran some big risks.”
Paulo Dybala refused to celebrate his match-opening goal, instead appearing to look angrily at the stands where the directors sit. When asked, Allegri humorously tried not to read anything into it.
“There was nobody in the stands, who was he looking at?! He was imagining the stands were full. It was a very good goal, a quick passing move with Kean, then when he gets between the lines and moves the ball, that helps the team to breathe. He was extraordinary in those situations.”
The second goal was another header from Weston McKennie, and Allegri was asked what role the USMNT international was best at.
“He is attacking, especially down the right, because I don’t think he had a good game on the left. His timing of the runs from the right is better, he finds himself in front of goal, but struggles more on the left.
“The goal he scored in the Supercoppa on Wednesday was coming from the right too. He is one of these players with a different view of the pitch from one side to the other.
“I was the opposite, I did better on the left and cutting inside. Paul Pogba is better on the left, Arturo Vidal on the right, when Sami Khedira was on the left it fell like he was running into a brick wall. It’s characteristics, maybe they have one more dominant eye or something!”
Is Allegri’s second spell at Juventus a reconstruction project for the club?
“The thing we absolutely cannot do without is intensity, tempo and aggression, because if we don’t drop the intensity level, then we don’t get distracted and can make our technique count.
“I looked at the line-up, we had De Ligt born in 1999, Kulusevski 2000, Kean 2000, Pellegrini ’99, the oldest was Cuadrado and the others all between 20 and 23 years old. You can lack some experience and understanding in those moments of when to hold off and when to control it.”
Even with a side packed with veterans, is his side still lacking a natural leader?
“We made a mistake in the second half, thinking we were relaxed and in charge, so we drifted out of the game. It’s not about finding a leader, it’s about the general maturity of the lads as a whole. You need experience in every profession, nobody is born knowing everything.
“We need patience. I did get very angry at that moment, but I talked to them afterwards and tried to make them understand. The important thing is they understand quickly and it has to be done on an individual level, whether they are at Juventus or elsewhere.”