May 9, 2021

‘Serie A was our main goal’ – Bonucci plays down Juventus’ Champions League exit

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They may have won the Scudetto for a record ninth straight season, but Juve’s European woes continued on Friday with elimination at the hands of Lyon

Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci claimed that his team-mates would not dwell too long on Friday’s Champions League exit, as the club’s first priority was to retain Serie A

The Italian giants picked up the Scudetto for the ninth consecutive season in July, beating out Inter, Lazio and Atalanta at the summit. 

Despite that success, though, the warning signs for Maurizio Sarri’s men were there, after suffering four defeats and winning just three of their last nine league games following the restart. 

A double from Cristiano Ronaldo led them to a comeback victory over Lyon following Memphis Depay’s early penalty, but the French side advanced on away goals after drawing 2-2 on aggregate. 

Elimination comes as a huge blow to Juventus, who failed to advance past the quarter-final stage for the third successive season in spite of signing all-time Champions League record goalscorer Ronaldo in 2018, but Bonucci insists that the league was their real objective for 2019-20. 

“We are upset. We knew that a game like this could happen, where they would sit back and wait for us to come with the ball,” the defender explained to reporters after the game. 

“We conceded from a penalty after a few minutes but after that we did well to believe in [coming back]. Tonight we gave everything we had, it’s a shame.

“We showed that we had the physical condition to do it, Lyon only had one shot on target. However, our main objective was to win the league.

Bonucci went on to admit that the 1-0 defeat suffered to Lyon in the first leg back in March proved decisive, while defending his team-mates’ effort in Turin.

“We probably could have done better in the away leg, these games are player over 180 minutes. It’s a shame, because we gave everything,” he added.

Barcelona-bound midfielder Miralem Pjanic disagreed with Bonucci, stating that going out to Lyon was unacceptable for a club of Juve’s stature.

“It’s hugely disappointing for us, as we really wanted to get through to the next phase and continue this competition,” Pjanic told Sky Sport Italia.

“It was a bad start with that penalty, but we stayed in the game and kept pushing throughout. It’s really disappointing and difficult to accept, certainly.

“We mustn’t diminish the achievement of winning the ninth Scudetto, but this club can and should aim much higher. I have no doubts this group will resume even stronger next season, as I know full well the mentality and strength within the side.

“Our first leg performance was not good enough and in the Champions League these ties are decided over two legs. We went out to a Lyon side that really should’ve been within our grasp.”