MILAN: Coach Massimiliano Allegri launched an explosive outburst to serve a reminder that a star-studded Juventus could struggle to end their 20-year wait to win the Champions League this season.
The Italian champions dominated their Group H opener at home to stubborn Sevilla on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), but were held to a scoreless draw by the Europa League champions which means the pressure is now on ahead of the trip to Dinamo Zagreb in a fortnight.
Allegri, who steered Juventus to the 2015 final in his first season in charge of the two-time champions, saw the Turin giants stretch their unbeaten run at home in Europe to 18 games.
But Sami Khedira spurned two early chances and star striker Gonzalo Higuain’s header came off the crossbar on the hour, leaving the Italian giants with just a point.
It was the first time the 49-year-old Allegri had failed to win the opening group game in the competition.
And he was quick to calm expectations that Juventus, outclassed 3-1 by Barcelona in Berlin two years ago, can make it to their second final in the space of three editions.
“Juventus are not the only candidates (to win the Champions League),” Allegri shouted during an angry tirade in the post-match press conference.
“I believe, and I repeat, that Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Manchester City are all at the level of Juventus, or above. Even more so after the results and the wins they’ve had.
“Juventus haven’t won the Champions League in 20 years. We were very active in the summer transfer period, but so were a lot of clubs: that doesn’t guarantee victory.”
Juventus notably captured Higuain for an Italian record of 90m euros, but the Argentine — who hit a Serie A record 36 goals for Napoli last season — looked out of sorts.
He was not the only Juventus culprit, and Allegri added: “We had seven chances to score and in normal circumstances we would have won. They didn’t even have a proper shot on goal.
“But the team shouldn’t be too disappointed with this performance.”
Euphoria to depression
Although Sevilla came to defend, Juve carved open their defense with ease during two busy spells in each half.
But at every turn, the hosts were thwarted.
Khedira twice wasted early opportunities to give the hosts a winning start and, after looking nervous in the opening half, Higuain headed Dani Alves’s great delivery off the crossbar on the hour after the ex-Barcelona man was sent clear down the right.
Allegri eventually replaced Kwadwo Asamoah with Mirlamen Pjanic and Patrice Evra with fellow wing-back Alex Sandro with 22 minutes remaining.
Juve continued to dominate, but Higuain spurned another chance when he sent Khedira’s cross wide of the upright and five minutes later Pjanic dragged his shot wide of the post.
As Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli lapped up claiming an unexpected share of the spoils, Allegri was ultimately left frustrated.
“When you play in this competition, you have to keep your wits about you,” said Allegri. “Here, it seems we’ve gone from euphoria to depression.”