Buffon finally breached but Juve secure safe passage to Cardiff
AS Monaco’s enjoyable campaign ended by Old Lady in Turin
Juventus celebrate reaching the Champions League final after their 4-1 aggregate win over AS Monaco. Photograph: Richard Heathcote/Getty
Juventus 2 AS Monaco 1 (Juventus win 4-1 on aggregate)
The great black and white blockade rolls on, although not without a minor scratch. Juventus were at least made to work a little by Monaco in Turin, emerging as 2-1 winners on the night and 4-1 winners overall in a Champions League semi-final they dominated like a cagey world champion boxer keeping a slick young challenger at bay. At the end of which Max Allegri’s team will be in Cardiff to face Real or Atlético Madrid, a second Champions League final in three years.
They did at least concede a goal here, 689 minutes after the last one in this competition, Kylian Mbappé slipping the ball past Gianluigi Buffon with the game already buried. Yet to be really stretched in the knockout stages, Juventus will provide a mighty obstacle for whichever Spanish team joins them in the final.
On a balmy night in Turin this steeply banked armoured bowl of a stadium was alive with noise at kick-off.
Two goals down after the first leg, Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco were not just up against it here, they were crouched beneath extinction’s alp, staring up at the distant, snow-capped prospect of a first final since 2004. Juve had won all previous 11 knockout ties against Ligue 1 opponents. Monaco had never won in Italy in seven attempts.
Plus Juventus’s run to this stage has also bucked the trend for fetishised celebrity front threes. The stars of this team, the cool kids, great beaky broken noses splashed across a million keyboard-fanboy bedroom walls, are the defence. Here Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, and Andrea Barzagli, combined age 98, lined up once again in a three, with Dani Alves and Alex Sandro the wing backs pushed wide and high.
Monaco got to this stage playing freely and without fear, and so it was here, Buffon flapping at one early cross after a corner had been earned by the endeavour of Benjamin Mendy, a late replacement after Nabil Dirar was injured in the warm-up.
What a replacement too: Mendy was at the Juventus throat straight away, steamrollering up that left flank, from where Monaco threatened the home goal with five minutes gone, Mbappé hitting the post with a cut-back from a fine angle.
Juve were a little rattled. Sami Khedira limped off, replaced by Claudio Marchisio. Mendy and Mbappé continued to carry the fight, Mbappé battling with Chiellini with his back to goal and showing wonderful composure and skill on the ball when he managed to turn.
Juventus settled though, and began to make headway on their right, where Alves linked nicely with Gonzalo Higuaín. Some strikers have a yard of space in their head. Matched against Monaco’s super-svelte athletes, Higuaín looked at times like he keeps one up his jumper. But even carrying that little extra wheelbarrow of Higuaín around his movement is full of menace and three times he scampered in on goal. A hopeless dinked finish drifted wide. A low poke drew a fine low save from Danijel Subasic. Later Higuaín got beyond the last man but had to stop and shoot from 20 yards out as the central defence closed the space.
The goal was coming, albeit it arrived from a break the full length of the pitch. Buffon threw the ball netball style to Alex Sandro, who zoomed off into the open grass. The ball found its way out to Alves on the right. His deep cross was headed powerfully at goal by Mario Mandzukic. Subasic saved, Mandzukic smashed the rebound high into the net and the Curva Sud dissolved into a huge seething bank of gleeful noise.
Juve were surging away, looking like a team that have arrived at the season’s final breaths in good health, poised on the verge of a sixth straight Serie A title, gears functioning, moving parts grooved and settled.
Monaco almost snatched one back, Mbappé denied a tap-in after brilliant work from Mendy by Chiellini’s last-ditch interception.
And almost immediately it was 2-0 on the night, Alves smashing the ball on the volley past Subasic from outside the right side of the area after the ball had looped back to him. It was an extraordinary finish, and at a killer time just before the break. Monaco trooped off looking a little numb, for all their energy reeled in by more seasoned opponents, the tie seized with ruthless, controlled brilliance.
Ten minutes later Buffon produced a wonderful reflex save at his near post and with 68 minutes gone Monaco achieved something of genuine note by finally putting a goal past this Juventus defence, the first from open play in the 12th game of this Champions League campaign. Mbappé scored it, becoming the youngest player to score in a semi-final in this format, darting in to turn in João Moutinho’s cut-back.
There was a minor rumble in the Juve penalty area after Fabinho had gone down dramatically, shortly after Kamil Glik had clearly stamped on Higuaín at the other end as he tumbled in front of him.
From there the game became a celebratory final trot, the Juventus Stadium already rising to this settled, powerful team full of craft, who will now look to Cardiff and the chance to become champions of Europe again