Maurizio Sarri insists he made the right call to rest a physically and mentally tired Cristiano Ronaldo after Lecce held Juventus to a 1-1 draw.
After deciding to leave Ronaldo out, Sarri started Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain upfront together hoping the Argentine duo would fire in the goals at Lecce to help maintain Juventus’ Serie A lead.
However, Lecce were able to contain the Bianconeri forwards after a VAR review ruled out an early Higuain goal. Goalkeeper Gabriel then rose to the occasion by denying Dybala to keep them in the game.
But Jacopo Petriccione’s foul on Miralem Pjanic in the area undid all of Lecce’s work in the second-half. And, this time around, Gabriel was helpless to prevent Dybala from firing Juventus into the lead through a penalty.
Just when victory seemed in sight, though, Matthijs de Ligt’s handball allowed Marco Mancosu to score a 56th-minute penalty for Lecce.
So, the two sides ultimately settled for a 1-1 draw in the end. Although Juventus could lose top spot in the Serie A to Inter Milan, who are playing Parma.
“At the end, we got ourselves get swept up in a battle that was not our style,” Sarri told Sky Sport Italia.
“We created many scoring opportunities and didn’t take them, so there was a lack of determination and clinical edge. We also didn’t control our lead well at all, so I didn’t like any of that.
“Cristiano Ronaldo was tired both physically and mentally. So, it wouldn’t have helped him to make this journey and sit there. When a player expresses his fatigue, it was only right to give him a rest.
“The fact remains, we created 10 scoring opportunities and didn’t finish them. I think we took it a bit easy in our finishing and after we took the lead, [we] acted almost as if it was natural we’d win.
“I don’t know if we were superficial as such, but we weren’t as determined as we could’ve been. We shouldn’t think that just because we create lots of chances, we’ll automatically score and win.”
Sarri also gave an update on Higaun’s nasty head injury, with Argentine having gone to the hospital.