- Juventus played host to Ligue 1 side Nantes in the Europa League play-off
- Juventus was playing in the Europa League for the first time since 2014
- Nantes equalised in a stunning manner to share the spoils in Turin ahead of the return leg in France on Feb 23
Ludovic Blas’ magnificent equalizer in the Europa League play-off prevented Juventus from defeating Nantes at home, as the score remained 1-1 despite Juventus’ dominance throughout.
Massimiliano Allegri’s team placed third in Group H in the dreadful Champions League and was eliminated from that tournament, but they looked deserving of their early first-leg advantage on Thursday.
Dusan Vlahovic scored with a tap-in after only 13 seconds at the Allianz Stadium, but Blas finished a swift counterattack in the second half, and Juve was left upset after a late VAR review determined that Andrei Girotto had not handled the ball for a penalty in the closing seconds.
That left it all to play for in the return meeting at Beaujoire Stadium on February 23 after a wasteful Biancorenni offered Nantes the chance for a memorable European night at home.
Angel Di Maria pricked Alban Lafont in the hands with an early drive, and Nantes did not pay attention to the Argentine World Cup winner’s earliest warning flags.
Federico Chiesa was able to tip across a lovely Di Maria chipped pass for Vlahovic to finish from close range.
A tepid Nantes were fortunate to go into halftime merely a goal behind as Lafont parried another fierce Di Maria long-range attempt.
At the hour mark, Nantes executed a superb counterattack to tie the score. Blas took advantage of Bremer’s error to race onto Mostafa Mohamed’s pass and shoot past Wojciech Szczesny.
Juve attempted to retaliate, but Chiesa’s vicious left-footed shot miraculously deflected off the line and away from goal, rattling the crossbar and Lafont’s left post.
When Girotto was found not to have handled when contesting a last-second Bremer headed opportunity, the referee awarded a free-kick for a push on Girotto, putting everything up for grabs in France the following week. Danilo fired over on the volley before that.
Juve wasteful in a rare Europa League appearance
As has been their domination in recent years on the continent, Juve had played their past 84 games in European competition in the Champions League.
Allegri’s team failed to capitalize on their superiority and suffered the consequences of a squandered performance in their first participation in the Europa League since reaching the 2013–14 semifinals.
A run in Europe or April’s Coppa Italia semifinal versus Inter may be Juve’s only chance of salvaging a successful season since any hopes in Serie A have been diminished due to their points deduction.
Chiesa and Vlahovic finally link up once again
Due to injuries that have prevented the two star Juve attackers from playing together this season, Allegri will be happy to see Chiesa and Vlahovic playing together once more.
In just their second combination for a goal, the pair worked together ruthlessly to score the opening goal. The other came in August 2019 when Vlahovic assisted Chiesa for former team Fiorentina.
Juventus will be back to Serie A action at Spezia on Sunday while Nantes will be making a trip to Lens in Ligue 1.
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