Football: Gonzalo Higuain gives Juventus a leg up

Juventus' Gonzalo Higuain was the star man at the Stade Louis II. He may get the chance to show Real what they are missing if both teams reach the Champions League final.
Juventus' Gonzalo Higuain was the star man at the Stade Louis II. He may get the chance to show Real what they are missing if both teams reach the Champions League final.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Striker cautions Champs League semi-final tie not over despite scoring two away goals

MONACO • Two-goal hero Gonzalo Higuain urged his Juventus team-mates to keep their feet on the ground after a brilliant 2-0 win in Monaco on Wednesday that left them on the brink of the Champions League final.

The Argentinian striker was set up by Dani Alves to open the scoring in the 29th minute and then converted an Alves cross just before the hour as Juve claimed a seemingly decisive victory in the semi-final first leg at the Stade Louis II.

The Italian champions have the final in Cardiff on June 3 in their sights, with a showdown against holders Real Madrid, Higuain's former side, looking probable. Real won their first leg against Atletico Madrid 3-0 at the Bernabeu.

"The dream we have been pursuing since August has been to get to Cardiff and we are just one step away," said Higuain, who was applauded off by the home support. "We have not won anything yet, so we mustn't get carried away."

Juventus were immense in all areas against a Monaco side who have lit up Europe this season with their brand of attacking football.

The hosts found the Juve defence unbreachable, with Gianluigi Buffon majestic as ever.

The goalkeeper, making his 149th European appearance, denied Kylian Mbappe and Radamel Falcao in the first half and produced a stunning fingertip stop from Valere Germain late on.

Juventus, who welcome Monaco to Turin for the second leg on Tuesday, have now gone more than 10 hours without conceding in the Champions League and Buffon has kept clean sheets in all five matches in the knockout rounds .

"In every game I want to show that I deserve to play at this level despite my age. I work hard every day for this. The day I quit, I want people to be sad about it," said the 39-year-old custodian, twice a beaten finalist in the Champions League in 2003 and 2015.

"We had the right approach. They are a fearsome team and the only way to beat them was playing the way we did."

The veteran also praised coach Massimiliano Allegri for his decision to bring Andrea Barzagli into a three-man defence, thwarting Monaco's attack and allowing Alves to wreak havoc down the right.

Allegri said: "Gigi showed that he is still a great goalkeeper. He always does it in big games, and Higuain scored two lovely goals. But to get results everyone needs to work hard. You need to make sacrifices and track back and he did that too."

Treble-chasing Juventus could wrap up a record sixth consecutive Serie A title this weekend, when they face city rivals Torino, while Lazio await in the Italian Cup final.

To put their performance in the principality into context, Monaco won their previous 13 home games and scored in 41 consecutive home matches since November 2015.

"They were more clinical than us - with two or three chances they scored and we couldn't put any of ours away. Buffon made some incredible saves," said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim.

He missed marauding Benjamin Mendy at left-back and now Monaco must attempt to become just the third team ever to overturn a home first-leg deficit in the Champions League.

Jardin said: "It is difficult but we need to keep believing. The best thing is to believe it is possible, even if we only have a 5 per cent chance."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2017, with the headline 'Higuain gives Juve a leg up'. Print Edition | Subscribe