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Juventus have ‘stalled’ but Sarri not worried after AC Milan draw

The Italian manager conceded his side have failed to progress in recent weeks after another underwhelming performance

Maurizio Sarri said Juventus‘ “growth has stalled” but the under-fire head coach is not worried after the Serie A champions snatched a draw against AC Milan in the Coppa Italia.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s controversial 90th-minute penalty saw Juve escape with a 1-1 draw away to 10-man AC Milan in the first leg of their semi-final showdown on Thursday.

Coming off a shock defeat at Hellas Verona, which allowed Inter to move top of the Serie A table last week, Juve were far from their best again as Milan impressed.

Ante Rebic’s 61st-minute opener looked set to be enough for Milan to secure first-leg honours, until Davide Calabria was harshly penalised for a handball at the death – Ronaldo making no mistake from the spot.

Juve have only won one of their past four matches in all competitions but Sarri is not unconcerned as pressure mounts amid links to former coach Massimiliano Allegri.

“I am not worried, as the only real worries in life are your health. It seems a normal phase to be going through, it’s unthinkable for a team to be in a continual ascent,” Sarri told Rai Sport.

“This is a sport and so much depends on the physical and psychological conditions of so many players.

“Our growth has stalled a little in the last three weeks, we concede avoidable goals. Having said that, we’ve conceded only three more than the best defence in Serie A, so it’s not that much of an issue.”

Sarri added: “We did better in terms of our passing and playing out from the back but were lacking in the final third. It’s a process and we are continuing.

“We have conceded some avoidable goals, for example today the cross was quite slow and – in my view – easy to defend. We were coming off a bad performance in Verona, but picked up a positive result, especially as it’s the first leg.”

Juve – 13-time Coppa Italia winners – will welcome AC Milan to Turin for the return leg on March 4.

Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was key in keeping Juventus in the contest on Thursday and declared recent criticism of the club was warranted. 

“I saw a Juve that I liked in the fluidity of the maneuvers, and that is essential to take control of the game,” Buffon said.

“We weren’t as effective as we deserved in the last 20 metres, but as it turned out, we pulled off a good result. It does not make you sleep soundly, but it is positive.

“When you play for Juve, the criticisms are right, because the bar is high and the objectives are important. After Napoli and Verona it is right that there were criticism, which can only do us good.” 

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