Much-vaunted attack fails against solid defence
MONACO: Monaco’s much-vaunted attack finally met its match against a supremely efficient Juventus team in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.
The Italian champions showed there is a considerable gulf in class between the two sides, winning 2-0 to strike a significant blow heading into Tuesday’s return leg in Turin.
Monaco have scored an incredible 146 goals in an inspirational season that has made the rest of Europe take notice, but were found wanting both in terms of composure and tactical knowledge.
At other times, cruelly exposed by the superior passing and clearly unsettled by the higher energy of the two-time European Cup winners.
While 2015 runners-up Juventus are odds-on to reach another final, Monaco look unlikely to reach only their second final after losing to Porto in 2004.
It was clear to see that Monaco’s players were not used to the scenario unfolding in front of them, because they have not been pressured in this way by such an astute side.
Even when Monaco enjoyed some good spells of flowing football, Juventus never panicked.
“Tactically they were much better than us,” Monaco midfielder Fabinho said.
Monaco’s players have been used to playing on the front foot, scoring 12 goals in four games against Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund in the two previous knockout rounds.
But after missing early chances against Juventus, finding a Plan ‘B’ became far harder against a Juventus centre-half pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, with their years of club and Italy experience together, and 39-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon still at the top of his game.
“Most importantly of all, we weren’t clinical enough in front of goal,” said Monaco’s 18-yearold striker Kylian Mbappe, who had a header and a shot saved early on.
“They had two clear chances and scored two goals. It was a good experience for us, as it will allow us to progress.”
Juventus knew when to close down, when to back off and — if needed — when to make things more physical.
When Bonucci and Chiellini — Juventus teammates since 2010 — roughed things up, this clearly intimidated a young Monaco side unequal in terms of physical presence.
Monaco’s frustration was compounded when coach Leonardo Jardim withdrew attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva with eight minutes left.
Symbolically, it was like a boxer’s corner throwing in the towel.
The Portugal international has been brilliant for most of the season, tormenting teams with his quick feet, probing passes and darting runs.
But Juventus simply shut Silva down and he was largely ineffective.
This had a knock-on effect of deflating his teammates because, with their chief creator stifled, the belief started to slip away. AP