Juventus took a small step towards the last four of the Europa League as Federico Gatti’s second-half goal secured the hosts a 1-0 victory over Sporting Lisbon in the first leg of their quarter-final on Thursday.
Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri changed the formation that lost 2-1 to Lazio in Serie A on Saturday to a more attacking one with three forwards, but with limited success.
“I always say that football is not a mathematical equation. I decided to use those three upfront, we were often left unbalanced against a strong opponent like Sporting,” he told Sky Sport Italy.
READ ALSO: Sadio Mane Punched Leroy Sane In The Face After Bayern Munich’s Champions League Defeat By Manchester City
The first chance fell to Federico Chiesa who fired an angled shot from inside the box that Sporting goalkeeper Antonio Adan parried away.
Sporting dominated much of the match and had chances to score in the first half. Captain Sebastian Coates had a shot saved by Juve goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny before Gleison Bremer cleared a Nuno Santos effort off the line.
Juve had to substitute Szczesny shortly before the break, the Poland international holding his chest before being replaced by Mattia Perin.
“I am fine, I was a little anxious, but we did all the tests and everything is fine,” Szczesny said.
READ ALSO: ‘It Is Not Over Yet’ – Thomas Tuchel Warns Manchester City After Thrashing Bayern At The Etihad
“I was scared, it had never happened to me before, I was struggling to breathe and it really worried me.”
Substitute Dusan Vlahovic’s 73rd-minute header was blocked on the line by Coates and Gatti bundled the rebound in from close range.
Juve midfielder Paul Pogba made his first appearance outside of Serie A this season when he came on as a late substitute for Angel Di Maria and he made a superb double intervention in stoppage time to stop Sporting from scoring.
“We made a few mistakes, the lads can improve, above all in the final cross when Perin made two crucial saves, we should’ve sensed the danger earlier,” Allegri said.
The result continued Sporting’s winless run in Italy. Four of their 16 games in the country have resulted in draws and 12 in defeat.
The second leg is next Thursday at Estadio Jose Alvalade in Lisbon. The winners will face either Sevilla or Manchester United in the semi-finals.
Photo Credit: Getty