Pellegrini says City strikers must sharpen up
City created more clear-cut chances than Juventus and took a 57th-minute lead through Giorgio Chiellini’s own goal, only for clinical late strikes by Mario Mandzukic and Alvaro Morata to earn the visitors victory.
Raheem Sterling was twice thwarted by Gianluigi Buffon, while Wilfried Bony, deputising for the injured Sergio Aguero, struggled to make an impact, and while Pellegrini was reluctant to single out individuals, he admitted that squandered opportunities had cost his team.
“I expect that when we have chances, we must score,” said Pellegrini, whose side went into the Group D game after five straight wins in the Premier League.
“Because in Champions League games the differences are very slight between the teams, especially against such a strong team as Juventus.
“If you have good chances and you don’t score, maybe Juventus didn’t create so many (chances), but they had a good finish.”
Buffon first denied Sterling in the second minute and then produced a double-save from Sterling and David Silva shortly after Chiellini’s own goal, which was to provide a platform for Juventus’ late comeback.
But Pellegrini refused to point the finger at Sterling, who was making his first Champions League appearance since his £44 million ($67.5 million, 59.9 million euros) move from Liverpool.
“I don’t think this result is only Raheem,” said the City manager.
City have failed to go beyond the Champions League last 16 in the previous four seasons and their home form has been an integral factor, with their last 15 home games in the competition yielding just five wins.
However, having seen his side qualify from the group stage despite failing to win their first home games in each of the last two seasons, Pellegrini said there was no cause for alarm.
“I don’t think we need to learn from other years,” said the Chilean, whose team lost 3-1 to Bayern Munich in their first group game in 2013 and drew 1-1 with Roma last season.
“In the last two seasons we lost the first home game and in both seasons we qualified for the next stage. You never want to lose at home, but the group stage is just starting.”
– ‘Extraordinary’ Buffon –
Morata struck Juve’s 81st-minute winner, a fine, curling effort from the edge of the box, after Vincent Kompany had gone off and Pellegrini later revealed that his captain had injured his calf.
In more positive news, Aguero made a late appearance as a substitute, despite having been ruled out of the game by Pellegrini due to a knee injury, and the manager is hopeful he will be fit to face West Ham United on Saturday.
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri hailed the role that Buffon, 37, had played in his side’s victory.
“How long can he play for? I don’t know. As long as possible, I hope. Certainly as long as I’m manager here,” he said.
“I’m not sure I can find the right adjective to describe him. Extraordinary, maybe. He’s perhaps the best goalkeeper ever, in the history of football. He never stops astounding us.”
Victory was a welcome tonic for Juventus, whose Serie A title defence has started with two defeats and a draw, and Allegri hopes it will spark an upturn in their domestic fortunes, beginning with Sunday’s trip to Genoa.
“To turn things around you need the will and the desire to do so,” he said.
“Perhaps we’ve been getting bit anxious, a bit hasty, but ultimately you need to be calm and take your time.
“Tonight’s (Tuesday’s) victory puts us in a good position. We’ve already got three points, so Manchester are chasing us.
“Perhaps it will also give the players a bit more confidence and create a good environment so on Sunday we can try and win our first game in Serie A.”
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