Allegri lauds Di Maria after hat-trick sends Juventus into Europa League last 16

By Sports Desk February 23, 2023

Massimiliano Allegri hailed the impact of Angel Di Maria after the winger's hat-trick helped Juventus see off Nantes on Thursday to advance to the last 16 of the Europa League.

Di Maria put the Bianconeri in front with a stunning opener after just five minutes, before his inventive backheel was prevented from going in by the arm of Nicolas Pallois, giving the referee no choice but to point to the spot.

Di Maria thumped home the resulting penalty after Pallois was given his marching orders, and the Argentina international rounded off his hat-trick with a late header to cap a sublime display and send the Bianconeri through, becoming the first Juve player to score at least three goals in a European match since Filippo Inzaghi in 2000.

Allegri lauded the improvements Di Maria has made after an injury-hit start to life at Juventus following his move from Paris Saint-Germain.

"Angel is a world champion," Allegri told reporters after the match. "He increases the quality of this Juventus and we are all happy to have him.

"Having someone like him is important to the team. Now, he knows the team better and is physically better."

Allegri was delighted with his team's second-leg performance after a disappointing 1-1 draw in Turin left his team with a tricky test to progress at a raucous Stade de la Beaujoire.

They came through that test in style, and Allegri is setting his sights on winning the competition after one win in six Champions League group-stage matches saw Juve drop into the Europa League.

It could also be their only route to next season's Champions League, following a 15-point deduction in Serie A for financial breaches which sees them sitting seventh and playing catch-up for the European spots.

"Winning away from home is never easy, in Europe even more," Allegri said. "After the elimination in the Champions League, it seems that winning in Europe for Juve is a walk in the park, but it's not like that.

"Now seeing the [Serie A] standings, the Europa League seems like the only way to get to the Champions League.

"Barcelona, ​​Manchester United, Sevilla, Feyenoord, Arsenal, there are important teams [in the Europa League].

"Let's see who we get in the round of 16, if Roma also get through. We try to get to the final, but not just to get to the Champions League, but also to win a trophy."

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