Villarreal coach Unai Emery praised the ‘maturity’ of his team for fighting back after a Juventus goal in the opening minute. ‘We didn’t let our heads drop.’
The Bianconeri had the perfect start at La Ceramica when Dusan Vlahovic scored 32 seconds into his Champions League debut.
However, Dani Parejo equalised when pouncing on a massive gap in the middle of the defence, where Adrien Rabiot and Matthijs de Ligt left him totally unmarked.
“We showed maturity and experience as individuals and a collective,” said the coach in his press conference.
Champions League | Villarreal 1-1 Juventus: Vlahovic not enough at La Ceramica
“These allowed us to realise that anything can happen against these teams, so we managed not to let our heads drop. That maturity was very important.”
This was the first time Villarreal made it into the Champions League knockouts in 13 years, but they are certainly not lacking in European experience, as they are the reigning Europa League holders.
“Raul Albiol helped his teammates remain calm and we turned the game around. A second goal conceded would’ve been worrying, but we showed character and are fully satisfied.”
The away goals rule has been abolished, so a 1-1 result here is no longer quite as positive as it might’ve been for Juventus.
“They are still the favourites, we want to prove our capabilities and leave the door open for potential qualification,” added Emery.
“This proves we are never sated, we always want to give our best and we don’t let our heads drop after conceding early. We want to win, be strong and expect a lot of ourselves.”
There was controversy when Rabiot risked a red card for a very high tackle on Samu Chukwueze, but VAR did not intervene to suggest an on-field review and upgrade the yellow card to a dismissal.
“VAR could’ve made another decision, but overall the referee was perfect. It might’ve looked worse on television, but I respect the referee’s decision.
“Things would’ve changed drastically if there had been a red card at that moment, but I don’t want to cling to that.”