Juventus looked flat for long periods of time at home in one of their bigger games of the season, but stole a draw very, very late on against Sevilla in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final on Thursday night.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri would have been disappointed with how passive his side looked to start the game in a 3-5-1-1, but he still refused to change anything until halftime. The horse could well have bolted the barn by then were it not for hefty heaps of good fortune paired with profligate finishing from the Spaniards.
It was starting to look like Juve had exhausted all their luck with not being behind by more than one at the break, until ‘lucky cat’ Federico Gatti made his presence known in time added on above time added on.
Speaking after the game, coach Massimiliano Allegri summarized his view of the game.
“Up until the goal, my team had moved the ball well, but when we got up there, it all seemed too easy and we made far too many mistakes. On the counter-attack we were caught out because we didn’t track back and left gaps, also risking a second in similar circumstances.
“The lads did well to fight back and get a deserved draw that leaves everything to play for in the second leg.”
For the goal his side conceded, the coach admitted his side weren’t prepared for.
“It should’ve been an easier pass to Kostic rather than Alex Sandro, then Bonucci was in a position where all he could do was a foul if he got near him to stop the move before it really started.”
Paul Pogba is starting to get more minutes, and is showing more of his previous self on the pitch.
“When games are in the opposition half, he is in an extraordinary player. If he was in optimal condition, of course I would have him in the starting XI every game. He gave a very important contribution this evening.”
The other Europa League semi-final was a close affair too, with AS Roma getting a 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen at home.
“It is always going to be balanced at this level. Sevilla are a very experienced side who are always in it, don’t forget that Manchester United were leading them 2-0 and they never stopped sticking to the plan, eventually making it 2-2 and winning the second leg 3-0. This evening we did well to do the same when Sevilla scored.
“We should’ve been sharper in the final third, especially in the opening 25 minutes, as we got a little too hasty and then conceded on the counter-attack.”
Allegri famously refuses to discuss the referee in his comments to the media, and would not be drawn into giving a soundbite regarding the high tackle on Adrien Rabiot that was not reviewed by VAR.
“We do not say anything. In all the years of my career, I have never discussed the referees. I will just say that I congratulate my team for not letting the incident get to them, they kept their calm and a few minutes later were right back in the game. The officials will evaluate whether it is a penalty or not, we cannot waste our mental energy on that. We’ve had enough dealing with unfavourable incidents this season, we can only stay quiet and focus on our work.”
With no away goals rule to work around, it’s going to be winner-takes-all in Spain a week from now.
“Sevilla defended very well, were very aggressive and their forwards ran like crazy for the high press. We know that we can do damage when spaces open up and the second leg will last 95 minutes, maybe even 120. We want to reach the Final.”
Saluti da Adrien!@UEFAcom_it pic.twitter.com/1em2zX1WAU— Massimo Zampini (@massimozampini) May 11, 2023
Midfielder Rabiot merited more than the poor standard of refereeing he received from German referee Daniel Siebert, showing where compatriot Loic Badé had kicked him late on. The defender had already been booked at this point and at the very least it merited a review from the VAR even as the Frenchman received medical attention. In his comments to the media, the 28-year-old did not pull any punches.
“It was a nasty foul, in my view a clear penalty, but VAR didn’t say anything. You can see clearly, he doesn’t get the ball, he gets my leg. I showed the referee my leg, but he didn’t react and I don’t know why the VAR didn’t call him back.”
It took a late leveler to even the scores despite an improved performance in the second half for the Bianconeri,
“That’s the Juventus motto, Fino Alla Fine, to the end, and we proved it tonight. We tried to push to the very end and the goal gives us hope for the second leg.
“We work on set plays a lot in training and hope to occupy the penalty area. It is an extra weapon for us, we’ve got some players who are good in the air and need to make the most of that.”
With a draw from the first match-up, whoever wins the next game goes to the Final.
“We need to be more attentive for their counter-attacks, as they always left two or three players forward and that allowed them to get away quickly. We need to be more compact and also be less hasty in our passing.
“I would like to reach the Final and bring this trophy back to Turin for the fans, the coach and the club.”