Max Allegri explains why his plan to stall Benfica broke down in a dismal first half and urges Juventus to focus on securing a Europa League spot after their Champions League elimination.
The Bianconeri are out of the Champions League in the group phase for the first time in nine years, as despite the late fightback from 4-1 down, it is their fourth defeat in five games.
They only really woke up and started to fight after the match was lost, with a couple of crosses from Samuel Iling-Junior inspiring an Arkadiusz Milik volley and Weston McKennie goal.
Matias Soule came close to 4-4, but it is also true that Rafa Silva had at least three chances to complete his hat-trick, including one off the upright.
“After the equaliser, you cannot concede another goal immediately like that on a penalty. We made life difficult for ourselves, didn’t take two chances with Vlahovic, then after the break went 4-1 down,” Allegri told Sky Sport Italia.
“This elimination hurts, we are angry and disappointed, but we have to focus now on Serie A and catching up because it has not been a good start to the season and we need to recover physical and mental energy.
“We must accept this elimination and turn that disappointment into motivation for the next match against Lecce. The elimination was certainly sealed before this, but we still should’ve stayed in the game, as we got the sense despite a poor first half that we could still hurt Benfica.
“Unfortunately, we made it more difficult for ourselves and Soule could’ve scored to give us the hope of winning in the final minutes.”
Allegri had surprised by initially leaving Arek Milik on the bench for Moise Kean, and confessed the plan was to stall Benfica until the Poland international could batter them down as a substitute.
“Benfica pressed hard at the start, were dangerous on the counter and I hoped Miretti-Milik would improve the quality level in the second half, but by that point we were already 4-1 down. Iling has been training with us for 20 days already, these young players have enthusiasm and don’t feel the pressure.
“We are still in the Europa League right now, we had hoped the final match would be worth more, but unfortunately it is only worth a place in the Europa League.”
The fight is now on with Maccabi Haifa for third place and passage to the Europa League play-offs.
The good news is they have an identical head-to-head record, so it goes to goal difference, which right now has Juve on -3 and Maccabi Haifa on -9.
The bad news is that PSG and Benfica also have an identical head-to-head, so will try to score as many goals as possible to guarantee top spot and in theory an easier draw for the knockouts.
The final games are Juventus-PSG and Maccabi Haifa-Benfica.