High-flying Juventus crash back to earth with Genoa defeat
Former Juventus midfielder Stefano Sturaro scored in his first match for Genoa, a 2-0 victory which ended the title-holders unbeaten run in Serie A on Sunday in the wake of their Champions League heroics.
Cristiano Ronaldo was rested after his hat-trick had fired Juventus into the European quarter-finals with a comeback victory over Atletico Madrid.
But Massimiliano Allegri conceded that the win in Turin had taken its toll even if his side still remain 18 points clear on the top of the table before Napoli's game against Udinese later on Sunday.
"It's not a tragedy, but I'm sorry because we wanted to remain unbeaten," said Allegri.
"The Champions League match certainly weighed heavy," he said. "You can't play all the games at your maximum.
"In the first half we risked conceding a goal twice, while we did better in the second, when they dropped a little bit, but we conceded goals and gave away the second straight after the restart.
"A defeat could have happened (at any time) and it is better that it happened today, now we will have time to rest, recover our energy and the injured players."
Juventus had won 24 of their 27 previous matches in Serie A this season with three draws, including a 1-1 stalemate against Genoa in the reverse fixture in Turin.
It was the first league defeat on Allegri's side since April 2018 against Napoli, and first away since losing at Sampdoria in November 2017.
- 'Time to unplug' -
The Italian champions had already been beaten this season by Atalanta in the Coppa Italia and lost in the Champions League to Young Boys in the group stage and Atletico Madrid in the last-16 first leg.
"The defeat could do us good, because maybe we thought we already had the league in our pockets and instead we still have to get five victories," continued Allegri.
"Much like the Coppa Italia defeat to Atalanta, we picked the right game to lose, because it's just before the break for international duty, so we have time to unplug and rest."
In addition to Ronaldo, Allegri rested key players including defender Giorgio Chiellini and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny with former Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin taking his place between the posts.
Italian international Sturaro, 26, was playing his first game after ten months out with a tendon injury, and scored just two minutes after coming off the bench. Another substitute Goran Pandev sealed victory with ten minutes to go.
"I'm happy for him (Sturaro), because he suffered a lot and today he changed the game," said Allegri of the midfielder who was loaned by Juventus to Genoa in January, a deal then made permanent in February.
The last goal Sturaro had scored was for Juventus in the Champions League, a 2-2 comeback against Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich in February 2016.
"It has been a difficult year for me," said Sturaro, who had been on loan for a season at Portuguese club Porto but did not play any games before returning to Italy.
"I'm still a long way off match fitness and this really couldn't have been a better gift. This has to be the boost we need, because Genoa are largely a young squad, but with solid foundations."
Genoa move up to 12th after this eighth win of the season.
Napoli, meanwhile, can cut the gap on Juventus to 15 points when they host Udinese later, with AC Milan, in third, playing city rivals Inter Milan, in fourth, at the San Siro.
Roma, are fifth, three points off the Champions League places after a 2-1 defeat to struggling SPAL, with Lazio two points behind in sixth following a 4-1 win over Parma in Rome.
Atalanta are equal on points with Lazio after being held 1-1 by bottom club Chievo.
? 2019 AFP