Juventus defeat gives Allegri more questions as Pogba exit looms
The Bianconeri coach will be disappointed with his side’s flat performance in the absence of their key midfielders as they lost on penalties to Melbourne Victory.
MELBOURNE, Australia — The seemingly imminent departure of Paul Pogba gave Juventus’ fringe midfielders an opportunity to impress coach Massimiliano Allegri in their penalty shootout defeat to Melbourne Victory on Saturday.
However, the 48-year-old will have been left with many concerns over the options available to him, with his second string midfield trio failing to inspire.
Allegri said before the game he likes travelling to Australia in pre-season because of the lower temperatures, but as the mercury dropped to seven degrees Celsius at the MCG, Juventus appeared frozen.
Carlos Blanco’s incredible strike from near the halfway line gave the Italians the lead early in the second half of the International Champions Cup fixture.
But the hosts deservedly took the match to a penalty shootout thanks to Jai Ingham’s late strike, before goalkeeper Lawrence Thomas made two saves to see Victory triumph.
None of Allegri’s preferred midfield trio from last season – Pogba, Claudio Marchisio and Sami Khedira – made the trip to Australia.
Pogba, who made 33 starts in Serie A last term, is yet to return to Juventus duty following Euro 2016, and as a move away from Turin seems imminent for the Frenchman, the performance of the midfield will have given the coach a few concerns as to the depth of his midfield.
With the injured Marchisio and Khedira also absent, Allegri picked Kwadwo Asamoah, Hernanes and Mario Lemina as his starting midfielders in a 3-5-2 formation in Melbourne, with Alex Sandro and Pol Lirola filling the wingback roles.
Asamoah, Hernanes and Lemina were withdrawn at half-time and it is hard to believe any of them will break into Juve’s starting XI during 2016-17 based on their performance against Victory.
Last season, Hernanes started 10 matches in Serie A, while Lemina and Asamoah, the more impressive of the three in the ICC opener, managed seven and six, respectively.
The Ghanaian, who was chosen to wear the captain’s armband in the absence of regular skipper Gianluigi Buffon, linked up well with Sandro on the left but rarely threatened Victory’s defence.
Hernanes didn’t make too many mistakes as the holding midfielder, however, he was also rarely involved in the play in a rather pedestrian performance.
Instead, it was Lemina who was particularly disappointing.
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The 22-year-old had three scoring opportunities in the first half and failed to craft a proper shot on target, scuffing his first two chances and then seeing his third blocked.
Lemina was rusty and he could see himself drop down the pecking order in Turin if Juve recruit Marko Pjaca starts strongly following his switch from Dinamo Zagreb.
On another night, Victory could have won in regular time.
Juve goalkeeper Neto produced a fine save just before half-time to deny Besart Berisha’s diving header, while after the break, Mitch Austin should have done better with his effort in the 79th minute.
In the end a sharp passing move in the 83rd minute ensured Victory forced a shootout, as Ingham rolled past his marker to convert, with the home side emerging with a 4-3 win in penalties.
The original version of this story which was published by goal.com Serie A can be viewed here.
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