Higuain double helps Juventus beat Monaco – Champions League
AS Monaco 0-2 Juventus
Gonzalo Higuain scored twice from Dani Alves passes to give Juventus a 2-0 victory and put them in control of their Champions League semi-final with Monaco ahead of next week’s second leg in Turin.
The €90million 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’ advantage.
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 teamsheet, 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 legendary 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 and Higuain got there first, making contact with an outstretched toe.