Veteran Alves the spark for Old Lady

Dani Alves starred for Juventus in their 2-1 victory against Monaco, providing the cross from which Mario Mandzukic scored the opening goal. His instinctive volley then doubled the lead, giving his side a 4-1 aggregate victory.
Dani Alves starred for Juventus in their 2-1 victory against Monaco, providing the cross from which Mario Mandzukic scored the opening goal. His instinctive volley then doubled the lead, giving his side a 4-1 aggregate victory.PHOTO: REUTERS

Brazilian finds inspirational form as Juventus beat Monaco, make Champions League final

TURIN (Italy) • Let this be remembered as the semi-final of Dani Alves.

While Juventus' defenders will be lauded for masterfully stifling Europe's most exciting attack, the real hero as the Italian side continued their march towards next month's Champions League final in Cardiff was their Brazilian veteran.

Having created both goals in the 2-0 first-leg win over Monaco last week, the 34-year-old set up Mario Mandzukic for Juve's opener on Tuesday before taking a slice of glory for himself when converting a stunning volley before half-time to ensure the Serie A side reached their second final in three years.

Teenage star Kylian Mbappe pulled a goal back for the principality club after the break, his sixth of the competition. But there was never any realistic prospect of Monaco threatening to overturn the first-leg deficit as they lost the tie 4-1 on aggregate.

It will be the ninth time Juventus, runners-up to Barcelona in 2015, contest the final of Europe's elite club competition. And, on this evidence, Massimiliano Allegri's sinewy, battle-hardened squad stand a good chance of adding to the club's meagre return of two triumphs when they meet either Atletico Madrid or Real Madrid in Cardiff on June 3.

FOCUSED ON THE FINAL

We have not won anything yet. There is no time for slacking, we have to take care of the details and we have a month to get ready for Cardiff.

MASSIMILIANO ALLEGRI, Juventus manager, on the challenge that lies ahead for his players.

"I think we have a good chance of winning the trophy," Allegri said. "We have all grown since 2015, including myself, and getting to the final is no easy thing. The Champions League is a serious competition.

"Now we are in the crucial phase of the season because we have not won anything yet. In order we have the championship, the Italian Cup and the Champions League. There is no time for slacking, we have to take care of the details and we have a month to get ready for Cardiff."

Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim fended off suggestions that Tuesday might have been the last big night for his talented young squad before the club's brightest stars are lured away.

"I am going to stay and I think all the players are going to stay. In three years' time this squad will be 25-30 per cent better."

Jardim said he expected Juve to be facing Real in Cardiff and said the Italian side would be anything but underdogs.

"This Juve is stronger than it was in 2015. There are many of the same players but with more experience of this level. The final is two teams with many quality players and experience of matches like that - it could go either way. I don't think there are any favourites."

After an injury-interrupted start at Juventus, Alves has rediscovered the form which helped him win 23 trophies over eight seasons with Barcelona and made him one of the Spanish club's most influential players.

The exuberant Brazilian is now enjoying a second wind at his new club and gave an inspired performance on Tuesday which must have left Barcelona wondering why they let him go in the first place.

Alves, more usually fielded as a right-back, was brought in on the right side of the Juventus midfield in place of Juan Cuadrado, a position which allowed him to show all his attacking ability.

He now has a chance to win a remarkable fourth Champions League title.

"I don't score very often, so I'm happy, but in a way I prefer the assist to a goal, so everyone goes home happy," he said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Veteran Alves the spark for Old Lady'. Print Edition | Subscribe