TURIN - Federico Gatti headed home in the 97th minute to earn Juventus a 1-1 draw against Sevilla in their Europa League semi-final first leg on Thursday.
Youssef En-Nesyri gave the record six-time champions the lead in the first half and they seemed set to take that advantage back to Seville before Gatti’s late intervention.
Moroccan international En-Nesyri finished a sharp counter-attack in the 26th minute to break the deadlock in Turin.
Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side deserved their lead at the break and although Juventus improved, the Andalucians seemed to have shut them out well to take an advantage back to the rowdy Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan next week.
However Gatti nodded home from point blank range after substitute Paul Pogba headed the ball back into his path.
Sevilla, who dumped Manchester United out in the quarter-finals, have never been knocked out of the tournament in the semi-final stage.
The Spaniards, who won the Europa League at the Juventus Stadium in 2014, made themselves at home in the first half.
The hosts should have taken the lead when Dusan Vlahovic fired over, perhaps put off by Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou’s dive at his feet.
After that Mendilibar’s side started to impose themselves, with Lucas Ocampos playing a key role.
The Argentine winger, recalled from his loan at Ajax in January, sent a shot inches wide from close range, before making amends by setting up the opening goal.
Ocampos drove forward and played a low ball across the area, which Bryan Gil left for En-Nesyri to sweep home.
Sevilla were dealt a blow when Ocampos limped off injured shortly afterwards, but stayed on the attack. Wojciech Szczesny tipped over an Ivan Rakitic drive from distance, while En-Nesyri curled narrowly off target.
Massimiliano Allegri took action, sending on Federico Chiesa and young English winger Samuel Iling-Junior on at half-time in search of the equaliser.
Juventus, second in Serie A but waiting on the outcome of an Italian football federation ruling on illicit transfer activity, may end up needing to qualify for next season’s Champions League through Europa League victory.
Former Chelsea youth team player Iling-Junior cut in dangerously from the left but could not find a final ball as a more composed Juventus enjoyed more control.
Eventually their pressure paid off when Gatti scored with virtually the last touch of the game, leaving honours even ahead of the return in Seville next Thursday. AFP