Juventus enjoyed a brilliant start to their Coppa Italia round 16 tie against Genoa, opening the scoring as early as the second minute through Dejan Kuluseveski, before doubling their lead thanks to Alvaro Morata’s strike mid-way through the first half.
However, Genoa managed to beat the odds by pulling off a comeback via Lennart Czyborra and then Filippo Melegoni, forcing extra-time on the Italian champions.
Thankfully for the Old Lady, a young hero rose to the occasion, as substitute Hamza Rafia scored his first senior goal for the Bianconeri, ensuring their qualification to the next round without having to go through the drama of the spot-kicks.
Unsurprisingly, Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo had some mixed reactions after the 3-2 win, as he gave his thoughts on several subjects, including Kulusevski, the young defender Radu Dragusin, as well as his club’s objectives regarding the tournament.
“We made life complicated for ourselves, as we had played the first half really well, then got distracted and it became tougher,” Pirlo told RAI Sport via Football Italia
“It’s a pity, as we had done what we needed to and should’ve controlled the situation better. The Coppa Italia is a target for Juve, so it was important to win and go through to the next round.”
“Kulusevski is still very young and only really had one Serie A season, so it’s a big step up to Juventus. He has some peaks and troughs, so needs to be more consistent during the 90 minutes, more determined in front of goal and realise every single ball at Juventus is precious.”
“Dragusin made his debut in the Champions League, then 20 minutes against Genoa in Serie A, he is very interesting and showed his quality.”
Juve’s next Serie A opponents on Sunday night will be no other than Inter, who also had to go for extra-time on Wednesday to ward off Fiorentina in a 2-1 win.
“Pretty much all the games went to extra time, which shows how tough they all were. We are in the same boat and will have a few days to recover and prepare.” added the Italian legend.
“I don’t think we did struggle, as we were in control for most of it. There were a lot of young players who were in their first real experience at this level, so some mistakes can happen.
“We lacked concentration at times, especially when in a leading situation, so we need to improve the game management aspect.”
Pirlo will surely be hoping that his players recover as fast as possible before the crunch battle against Inter in the Guiseppe Meazza stadium on Sunday.