Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri hailed new signings Dusan Vlahovic and Denis Zakaria but acknowledged his side were lucky to edge past Sassuolo in the Coppa Italia.
After three minutes in Thursday’s quarter-final, Paulo Dybala fired in the opener at the Allianz Stadium, but Hamed Traore soon restored parity.
In the second half, Allegri’s side twice struck the woodwork, with Matthijs de Ligt missing a gilt-edged opportunity. Still, a late winner arrived when Vlahovic’s effort deflected past Gianluca Pegolo after an attempted Ruan block.
The victory meant Juve has qualified for the Coppa Italia semi-finals in seven of the last eight seasons, while no side has made it past the quarter-final stage on more occasions than the Bianconeri (10) since the 2006-07 season.
Much of the credit Allegri gave to his players after the game was aimed at new additions Zakaria and Vlahovic, who made a January move from Fiorentina in a transfer that could be worth up to €80million.
“We are happy with the signings of Vlahovic and Zakaria, who have integrated well,” Allegri told Mediaset.
“We are happy to have Vlahovic, who still needs to improve as much at attacking the depth better, but this is part of the improvement of each player.
“We also had luck after a good second half, their goal made us leave the game, but then we woke up.”
Juve’s fortunes have slowly been changing. They have won nine of their 13 games since the start of December and have moved up to fourth in Serie A – eight points behind leaders Inter, who have a game in hand.
But when asked if Juve could make a late charge for the Scudetto, Allegri swiftly dismissed the suggestions: “We are potentially 11 points behind Inter.
“We have to make the race against Atalanta, and we will have to be ready: it will be head-to-head until the end. The others are out of reach.”
Vlahovic may take the plaudits, including Allegri, for his role in the winning goal, but he failed to replicate the form he showed when scoring on his debut against Hellas Verona last Sunday.
The striker missed the target with three of his five shots while also squandering a glorious first-half chance, but the Serbia international expressed his satisfaction with how he is settling in as he heaped praise on his attacking colleagues Dybala and Alvaro Morata.
“We are only at the beginning, but as I said last time, I owe a lot to my teammates, to the coach, to the whole club, who have welcomed me very well. They are helping me a lot,” Vlahovic said.
“It would not have been possible without the team. It is an honor to play here, help my teammates, and be available to the team.
“They [Dybala and Morata] are two perfect guys, after great champions, great players, they have won a lot. I’m the youngest; I’m here to listen to them and try to reach their levels.”
On Sunday, the Bianconeri will look to continue their fine run of form when they return Serie A action against fellow top-four contenders, Atalanta.