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Monaco 0-2 Juventus: Gonzalo Higuain brace gives Juve victory in Champions League semi-final first leg

Gonzalo Higuain scored twice from Dani Alves passes to put Juventus in control of their Champions League semi-final with Monaco ahead of next week's second leg in Turin.

The 90million euro summer signing from Napoli has been prolific as Juve pursue a sixth straight Italian title, but goals had seemed harder to come by on the continent - until Wednesday night.

First, Higuain capped a remarkable team goal led by Alves to fire Juve ahead at the Stade Louis II, with his more regulation second extending the Italians' European advantage and settling a 2-0 victory.

And after successfully negating the goalscoring potency of would-be French champions Monaco, Massimiliano Allegri's Serie A table-toppers look likely to book a June showdown in Cardiff with Real Madrid, who lead their city rivals Atletico 3-0.

There were surprises on the team sheet, with Monaco fielding natural winger Nabil Dirar at right-back while Alves, a career full-back, was preferred to Juan Cuadrado on Juve's right flank.

Such deployments would prove crucial to the main events of the match but in the early exchanges the action was all down the left, with Kylian Mbappe living up to his growing reputation by terrorising Juve.

Minutes after Higuain had appeared to signal he was destined for an off-night when falling over as Paulo Dybala slid the ball across the pitch, Mbappe chose to enter the spotlight.

The 18-year-old, reportedly the subject of a big-money approach from Manchester United, dragged the well-drilled Juve defence out of line to smash a hard volley against Gianluigi Buffon's fists.

The veteran Italy goalkeeper had already featured at a World Cup - namely France 98, the first of his four campaigns to date - when Mbappe was born in the suburbs of Paris.

Another old head then came sniffing, with Buffon scampering to deal with Radamel Falcao's looping header from a Dirar cross.

Come the 22nd minute it looked like Monaco had torn a hole in the fearsome Juve back-line, with Mbappe bamboozling Andrea Barzagli with a clever cross that Giorgio Chiellini just got his head to, but in fact the damage was about to be done at the other end.

A sensational team move began with Buffon calmly pushing the ball out to Barzagli, and two touches later Dybala was eliciting gasps with a deft backheel inside for Alves.

The former Barcelona flyer stormed through the Monaco midfield before playing a one-two with Higuain. He received the Argentinian's return pass just inside the box and, holding off Kamil Glik, he too backheeled the ball across the penalty area for Higuain to steer into the bottom corner.

Higuain had not scored in his last seven outings in the Champions League knockout rounds and, after reaching 30 goals in all competitions for Juve at such a key moment, he was suitably overjoyed.

Monaco's young team, knowing they would now face an incredibly daunting evening in Turin, regrouped over the break and returned to the pitch in a belligerent mood.

Two minutes into the second half Buffon had to leap on a close-range shot from Falcao, who had moved on a pinpoint Bernardo Silva assist.

Claudio Marchisio fired a warning to Monaco with his snapshot from a difficult position, with Danijel Subasic covering, but just before the hour Juve did follow through on their menaces.

Again Alves was the provider, the Brazilian lofting a ball forward after Tiemoue Bakayoko lost possession under pressure from Dybala. Higuain got there first, his outstretched toe making it 2-0.

Higuain v Mbappe

Monaco's young pretenders and the experienced battlers of Juventus went head-to-head at the Stade Louis II on Wednesday night, with Kylian Mbappe and Gonzalo Higuain the class acts in each side.

Mbappe, 18, is setting Ligue 1 and the Champions League alight with his impressive performances this term, while former Napoli hitman Higuain is still lethal at a more advanced stage of his career.

We look at the two strikers' performances in this semi-final first leg.


Mbappe's goals helped Monaco pass Borussia Dortmund and reach the last four, and he has 14 in the league. He regularly tested his aim against Juve, worrying Gianluigi Buffon - 21 years his senior - with shots after cutting inside from the left. However, he could not beat the veteran goalkeeper.

Higuain had an early wobble when he slipped instead of claiming Paulo Dybala's clever pass but he made up for it by capping a fantastic team goal with a low shot into the bottom corner. It was his 30th strike in all competitions for Juve, and he extended that tally with a toe-poked conversion on the hour.


When he was not feeding on the assists provided by Bernardo Silva, Thomas Lemar and the rest of Monaco's incisive attacking unit, Mbappe was living up to comparisons with Thierry Henry by storming down the left before switching feet to pull makeshift right-back Andrea Barzagli out of position. That way, Radamel Falcao was able to get into shooting positions, and the Colombian did enjoy chances.

It was more set in stone for Juve, who rely on Dybala to create chances for Higuain, although natural full-back Dani Alves was an enthusiastic outlet in the principality. Higuain set himself up for the opener, slowing down a counter-attacking raid just long enough to allow Alves to occupy Kamil Glik, with the Polish defender baffled as his opponent backheeled a one-two assist for the Argentinian.


The night belonged to Higuain. Mbappe has a long - and hopefully bright - future but following Monaco's 2-0 first-leg defeat it looks like he will not become a Champions League winner this year.

Of course the younger man was unfortunate to find himself up against Buffon, who rolled back the years to enjoy one of his best European nights, but Mbappe struggled to mix up his shots and the Juve defence soon learned how to shut down his runs and thus minimise his threat.

Higuain, with his physicality and guile, put all his years of experience to good use by playing a patient game, refusing to rush forward and potentially waste the pass that led to his first goal. His timing for the second, not as easy as it looked, was perfect, and he may well have sent Juve to Cardiff.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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