Higuain and Buf­fon star at each end as Ju­ven­tus give Monaco mas­ter­class

New Straits Times - - Sport -

Cham­pi­ons League semi-fi­nal.

Higuain scored a goal in each half on Wed­nes­day, dou­bling his tally from 24 pre­vi­ous matches in the knock­out stages.

“Goals were not com­ing for me in this com­pe­ti­tion,” said Higuain, who cost Ju­ven­tus €90 mil­lion (RM441 mil­lion) when he joined from Napoli.

“I knew I just had to stay calm and keep work­ing hard.”

He did, re­lent­lessly, at both ends of the pitch. Mo­ments be­fore his sec­ond goal, he was near his own penalty area, har­ry­ing and has­sling Monaco’s at­tack.

“When you want to win big games, you have to make sac­ri­fices and track back,” Ju­ven­tus coach Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri said, com­pli­ment­ing his star striker.

He had a spe­cial praise, too, for the 39-year-old Buf­fon on the goal­keeper’s 100th Cham­pi­ons League ap­pear­ance for the club.

Buf­fon made two early saves from Monaco striker Kylian Mbappe with the score 0-0, thwarted top scorer Radamel Fal­cao with a fine stop just af­ter the break and de­nied Monaco a life­line with a stun­ning fin­ger-tip save over the bar from sub­sti­tute Valere Ger­main’s close-range header in the last minute.

Ju­ven­tus gave a mas­ter­class in how to with­stand pres­sure and then pun­ish on the counter at­tack, with both of Higuain’s goals com­ing af­ter good Monaco spells.

Higuain pounced in the 29th minute, side-foot­ing home af­ter Dani Alves had latched onto his pass down the right be­fore back­heel­ing the ball back to the Ar­gentina striker as he sprinted into the area.

The Ju­ven­tus bench rose as one af­ter Higuain slid in to turn home a deep cross in the 59th, with Alves again the provider.

The win­ners play ei­ther Real Madrid or city ri­vals Atletico, with Real head­ing into the re­turn leg at Atletico with a 3-0 cush­ion thanks to Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s hat trick on Tues­day.

Monaco’s vaunted at­tack was blunted by a solid Ju­ven­tus de­fence that has now con­ceded only two goals in 11 Cham­pi­ons League games.

The sheer speed of Ju­ven­tus’ ap­proach play took Monaco by sur­prise, prompt­ing coach Leonardo Jardim to fran­ti­cally ges­tic­u­late to his play­ers early to close down their op­po­nents higher up the pitch.

For­ward Paulo Dy­bala’s abil­ity to roam be­tween the lines baf­fled Monaco, open­ing up space for Alves on the right wing.

The first goal came just mo­ments af­ter Glik went down hold­ing his face, urg­ing his team­mates to kick the ball out de­spite a promis­ing at­tack build­ing down the left. It took the mo­men­tum away for Monaco.

Monaco at­tacked re­lent­lessly af­ter the break, with Buf­fon div­ing at the feet of Mbappe min­utes af­ter his save from Fal­cao.

“In ev­ery game I want to show that I de­serve to play at this level, de­spite my age,” Buf­fon said.

“The day I quit, I want peo­ple to be sad about it.” AP


Ju­ven­tus goal­keeper Gian­luigi Buf­fon tips over a shot at goal dur­ing their Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nal match against Monaco on Wed­nes­day. Ju­ven­tus won 2-0.

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