Juventus topple Monaco behind Higuain brace, Buffon saves
The audacious Juventus machines continue to churn out exciting results, defeating Monaco 2-0 in their Champions League first-leg semifinal to make the return leg in Turin a more comfortable prospect.
Playing with confidence due to their experience, Juventus started the match well as their opponent surrendered to nerves. A vertical side who love to run down the channels, Monaco struggled to pierce Juventus and had a difficult time finding alternate ways to attack.
However, the home side did have their chances but -- with Gianluigi Buffon relied upon to clean up any mistakes and Dani Alves playing like the perfect attacker -- Juventus made the most of their chances with Gonzalo Higuain scoring a brace to end the European curse and deliver a perfect score line to take to Turin.
The statistics were damning, Higuain had never scored an away goal in a knockout tie in the Champions League. Against Monaco, he got his first and second, finishing with aplomb and playing with confidence as the game wore on. Finally, it appears the curse is over and Juventus have their striker to depend on in both domestic and now European fixtures.
There was little to complain about but Juve did take a few risks resulting in nervy moments. On the ball technical mistakes were made against a side that can attack with such speed but Buffon is always alert and ready.
Manager rating out of 10
9 -- Massimiliano Allegri will never be doubted again. Many worried about the inclusion of Andrea Barzagli considering how he suffers against pace, but Allegri knew how well he'd mark the opponent, allowing Alves to indulge in attacking play. Providing balance through his tactics, Allegri ensured the win and still complained Juve could have done better -- the mark of a real winner.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 8 -- He has kept a clean sheet for 621 minutes in the Champions League. A goalkeeper who can still be relied upon to rescue Juve when the defence is breached, he was superb in stopping Kylian Mbappe and Valere Germain and in leading Juve from the back on his 100th appearance in the Champions League.
DF Andrea Barzagli, 6 -- He has suffered against pace before but was solid on the night. Left exposed a little on occasion yet relied on his experience to block the opponent and intercept passes.
DF Leonardo Bonucci, 6 -- Looked nervy at the start but his leadership skills coupled with his reading of the game ensured a safe night for the Bianconeri.
DF Giorgio Chiellini, 6 -- A little reckless tonight and that elbow on Radamel Falcao could well have resulted in a red card. However, he is a warrior at the back, the master of the aerial duels and the king of clearances.
DF Alex Sandro, 6 -- The man tasked with delivering the assists, he ran into good positions to help the side going forward and relied on his stamina to hold off Monaco.
MF Miralem Pjanic, 7 -- What a player he is developing into, holding off players, playing the ball out of trouble and combining beautifully with Claudio Marchisio. A fine passer, except for a few mistakes, he understands space so well and how to manipulate it.
MF Claudio Marchisio, 7 -- Good on the night working beautifully with the team and utilising his intelligence to occupy the right spaces and deliver accuracy going forward.
MF Dani Alves, 8 -- What a wise decision it was to play Alves a little higher. His vision to pick out players made all the difference as he delivered two fine assists, exploiting space admirably well and delivering for Higuain the way he delivered for Lionel Messi. In addition to that, he recovered possession more than any other player even if he did leave Barzagli a little exposed at times.
MF Paulo Dybala, 7 -- His touch for the first goal was delectable while he was instrumental in winning the ball that led to the second. Created and initiated even though tonight the glory belonged to his Argentina teammate.
MF Mario Mandzukic, 6 -- His technique lets him down a little at times but vital in both phases of the game, covering ground and carrying out the tactical strategy.
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 8 -- All hail the €90 million bomber who scored his brace to help guide Juve through to victory. A slow start, the player played a smart game as he looked to always be available to receive a pass, help defensively and make incisive runs.
MF Juan Cuadrado, N/A -- Came on to provide fresh legs.
MF Tomas Rincon, N/A -- Only came on to ensure solidity in the final minutes.
MF Mario Lemina, N/A -- Barely on long enough to make an impact.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.