‘Lucky’ late Morata strike seals Juventus last-16 berth
Alvaro Morata said he “got lucky” after he grabbed a late winner, with Cristiano Ronaldo also scoring, as Juventus qualified for the Champions League last 16 with a 2-1 victory over Ferencvaros on Tuesday.
Myrto Uzuni had given the Hungarians a shock 19th-minute lead in the Group G clash in Turin.
But Ronaldo rifled in the equaliser on 35 minutes for his first Champions League goal this season, extending his record to 131 goals in the competition.
And Morata came off the bench to seal victory two minutes into injury time with his fifth group-stage goal this term.
“Today I think I was lucky on the goal, but no one remembers luck, everyone remembers the goal and that’s it,” said the Spaniard.
“It was a complicated game, that’s how it is in the Champions League now.”
Andrea Pirlo has achieved his first objective as Juventus coach having taken over from Maurizio Sarri after the Italians crashed out of the Champions League in the last 16 to Lyon last season.
“Our goal was to start the match with a different attitude but when you play these apparently simple games you run into difficulties,” said Pirlo.
“Our game was too slow. We didn’t press hard, after many matches, it’s also normal not to have the same intensity.
“The lads were good at reacting and trying to win until the end. We got the result, that’s the important thing.”
Ferencvaros pushed the Italian champions hard as they chased their first group-stage win since 1995, having lost the home encounter 4-1 in Budapest.
“The result is the only reason to be disappointed,” said coach Serhiy Rebrov.
“The players are feeling down, but they should be proud of how they played.”
De Ligt a ‘champion’
Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci were out injured but Pirlo was pleased with how Matthijs de Ligt has returned after undergoing shoulder surgery in August.
The Dutch defender played alongside Danilo at centre-half, with Alex Sandro and Juan Cuadrado as full-backs, having returned last weekend.
“He’s a champion, already a captain despite being in his early 20s. His is an important comeback,” said Pirlo of the former Ajax skipper.
Paulo Dybala, wearing the captain’s armband, started up front alongside Ronaldo, but the Argentine failed to impress the Juventus coach.
“Dybala hasn’t done very well, but he is growing because he comes from a period of inactivity,” said Pirlo.
“He has been taking antibiotics for weeks and it is normal for him to take a little longer. But he has to go beyond his threshold to recover.”
Ronaldo set up the Argentine for the first shot on goal after quarter of an hour, but goalkeeper Denes Dibusz blocked the close-range effort.
And it was the visitors who broke through four minutes later, with Uzuni turning in Tokmac Nguen’s deflected cross.
Ronaldo had a goal ruled out for offside on 33 minutes but moments later he made no mistake, creating space with a neat turn outside the area before drilling home a powerful left-footed shot that gave Dibusz no chance.
The Portuguese, who missed the first two European games this season with coronavirus, brought his tally to 70 Champions League goals at home, level with Barcelona star Lionel Messi.
He was denied a second before the hour mark, with Federico Bernardeschi also going close just after, rattling the woodwork.
Pirlo made a triple substitution after the hour with Morata, Federico Chiesa and Dejan Kulusevski coming on place of Dybala, Bernardeschi and Weston McKennie.
Morata had an immediate impact, sending the ball through for Ronaldo but Dibusz held firm.
The Spaniard missed a chance 10 minutes from time, hitting the woodwork after meeting Chiesa’s cross.
But the former Atletico Madrid striker got his head to a Cuadrado cross, with the ball slipping in under Dibusz.