Juve wall holds firm

Barca un­able to breach de­fence of Turin giants

The New Age (Gauteng) - - SPORT -

A DIS­TRAUGHT Ney­mar left the field in tears as Ju­ven­tus held Barcelona to a 0­0 draw at the Camp Nou on Wed­nes­day to reach the Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nals 3­0 on ag­gre­gate. Barca had over­come a 4­0 first­leg deficit against Paris Saint­Ger­main in the last 16 with a dra­matic 6­1 win back on home soil. But Ju­ven­tus showed why they boast the best de­fen­sive record in the com­pe­ti­tion as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Ney­mar were blunted as the Ital­ians gained re­venge for their de­feat in the 2015 Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal. “To not con­cede a goal in two games against Barcelona says a lot about the tac­ti­cal level of the team,” Ju­ven­tus boss Mas­si­m­il­iano Al­le­gri said. “They had more chances in Turin than they did tonight. The team de­fended very solidly tonight.” Ju­ven­tus join hold­ers Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Monaco in to­day’s semi­fi­nal draw. “We tried with all our might, but we couldn’t find the route to goal,” Barca coach Luis En­rique said. “We played a very poor first half in Turin and that has cost us dearly. I will re­mem­ber what hap­pened in the first half there.” Straight from kick­off the vis­i­tors seemed de­ter­mined to learn from the French cham­pi­ons’ mis­takes. Al­le­gri’s men pressed high to pre­vent Barca dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion and en­joyed the bet­ter of the early chances. Gon­zalo Higuain volleyed over from the edge of the area be­fore only a bril­liant chal­lenge from Ger­ard Pique pre­vented Juan Cuadrado’s cross pro­vid­ing Higuain with a tap in. Barca had to wait 19 min­utes for their first clear sight of goal as they in­tri­cately worked the ball around a packed Ju­ven­tus box be­fore Messi fired inches wide. Messi then stung Gian­luigi Buf­fon’s palms for the first time on the half­hour mark.

“Over­all they were the bet­ter team and de­served to go through,” Pique said.

“Lit­tle by lit­tle we started to cre­ate chances, but they built a moun­tain.”

At the other end, Higuain threat­ened again when he just couldn’t get enough power on Mi­ralem Pjanic’s dinked cross to beat Marc­An­dre ter Ste­gen.

Ney­mar had been Barca’s hero in a re­mark­able fin­ish with two goals and an as­sist in the fi­nal min­utes against PSG.

Yet, he found it far harder up against friend and for­mer Barca team­mate Dani Alves and his frus­tra­tions at a per­ceived lack of pro­tec­tion from ref­eree Bjorn Kuipers spilled over as he was booked just be­fore half time.

Ju­ven­tus also had the first big chance of the sec­ond half as Cuadrado fired across Ter Ste­gen but wide of the far post.

Ter Ste­gen was then forced to turn be­hind an­other driven ef­fort from the Colom­bian.

Messi was be­ing forced to come deep in search of pos­ses­sion, but he briefly had Ju­ven­tus hearts in mouths with a low ef­fort that was de­flected frac­tion­ally wide.

En­rique for­lornly turned to Paco Al­cacer from the bench as the hosts played with four for­wards for the fi­nal half hour.

Messi had an­other big chance af­ter a rare Buf­fon han­dling er­ror from a cor­ner, but un­for­tu­nately for Barca it fell on his right foot and the Ar­gen­tine fired well over.

Sergi Roberto was Barca’s un­likely hero with the 95th­minute goal that sealed the 6­1 win over PSG six weeks ago.

He nearly de­liv­ered an­other im­por­tant and rare goal, but when the right­back’s ef­fort flew just wide 20 min­utes from time so did Barcelona’s hopes.

Ju­ven­tus com­fort­ably saw out the fi­nal stages to reg­is­ter their eighth clean sheet in 10 Cham­pi­ons League games this sea­son.

And the only neg­a­tive news of the night for the Bian­coneri was a yel­low card for Sami Khedira that will rule the Ger­man in­ter­na­tional out of the first leg of their semi­fi­nal. – AFP

NURPHOTO PIC­TURE:

SOLID AS A ROCK: Ju­ven­tus de­fender Gior­gio Chiellini cel­e­brates The Old Lady’s Cham­pi­ons League quar­ter­fi­nal vic­tory over Barcelona.

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