With Juventus holding a 2-0 lead going into their home leg of the Champions League semi-final, the feeling was that Monaco would need a miraculous comeback to overturn the deficit. When Juventus scored twice in the first half, the miracle began to look impossible.
Ultimately, although Kylian Mbappe got a goal back for the away side, the result was as expected as the Old Lady progressed through to their sixth Champions League final.
But, we’ve picked out three things you may have missed from the Champions League semi-final second leg.
HIGUAIN AND FALCAO’S REUNION
11 years ago Higuain and Falcao played together at River Plate.— Oddschecker (@Oddschecker) May 9, 2017
Tonight they face to reach the Champions League final! pic.twitter.com/ASJjlApCds
Somehow, the fact that Radamel Falcao and Gonzalo Higuain were once teammates at Argentinian side River Plate escaped the attention of the Internet ahead of last week’s first leg.
However, this image of the two as youngsters began doing the rounds before kick-off on Tuesday, with the duo scarcely recognisable compared to the grizzled veterans they’ve become.
DR. BUFFON EXPLAINS GOALKEEPING
Normally, when a footballer is compared to a surgeon, it’s usually an attacking player being lauded for precision passing that cuts defences open.
Gianluigi Buffon is no normal footballer, of course.
The legendary Juventus goalkeeper explained why his job is much like a surgeon’s, and the Champions League Twitter handle decided to put out a clip of this in the build-up to Tuesday’s game.
JUVENTUS – COCKY OR CONFIDENT?
Juventus’ display at the stadium showed off a simple, obvious message: “Time for Cardiff”.
They did come into this home leg with a two-goal lead, so they could be forgiven for thinking that their spot in the Champions League final was more or less booked.
Whether it was simply a reminder that it was time for the time to get back into the final, or a cheeky show of confidence, Juventus backed it up with an imperious display on the pitch.
In the end, it was a lapse in concentration as 679 minutes of Champions League football without conceding finished.
A most basic of errors for which, when the celebrations die down Massimiliano Allegri will no doubt pore over in video analysis. Joao Moutinho’s quick corner allowed the Portuguese to amble down the byline and drill a simple cross for Kylian Mbappe to score.
It was as un-Juventus a goal to concede as we could have witnessed; the established trio of Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci supplemented over the course of competition by Mehdi Bentia, Daniele Rugani and, against Monaco, the timeless quality of Andrea Barzagli.
Before Mbappe’s intervention, Juve had successfully kept a pair of clean sheets against the highest-scoring teams in Portugual (Porto) and Spain (Barcelona) and for 159 minutes the same was true for France, and Europe’s, most potent.
It forms the bedrock for everything they do, as with such velocity on the flanks in Alex Sandro and Dani Alves and speed of thought in the minds and feet of Miralem Pjanic and Paulo Dybal, it allows them to be clinical in transition.
A Buffon save, Chiellini block or Bonucci interception and three passes later a chance has fallen to Gonzalo Higuain or Mario Mandzukic in the opposing area.
Assuming it is Real Madrid they face in Cardiff, it is a system that should suit against a side who tend to play on the front foot and don’t always leave the back door locked.
However, for all their defensive excellence in terms of numbers – fewest goals conceded, most clean sheets, joint second-fewest shots conceded – there were moments in the 180 minutes against Monaco, outside of Moutinho catching them cold, that should present a degree of concern before June 3.
Mbappe troubled them, not just with his physical attributes but his relentless desire to try and take defenders on the outside, even though all of his previous attempts had resulted in failure.
The saying when analysing two of the Italian greats of the past, Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, was they never had to make a tackle; their reading of the game ensuring anyone taking them on would invariably lose possession.
But Mbappe compelled Juve to tackle, and in doing so drew them out of position opening up space. More often than not there was a team-mate to cover, it’s part of the reason why they are so good but the gaps were there, on occasion.
Small details change games and while dominant, Juve were also a Buffon save and wondrous far-post Chiellini clearance away from
allowing Monaco into this tie.
Madrid don’t possess the same kind of out-and-out raw pace and power in an attacking player to take any of Juve’s defensive titans on man-to-man. Cristiano Ronaldo was once that but is now a penalty box predator who’s surging dribbling days are behind him, while Gareth Bale has always had the capacity but fitness is a concern.
They do, however, have their own Alves on the left-hand side in Marcelo, who’s been one of the best footballers on the planet of late, plus finishers who tend to take their chance in the biggest games.
Juve will have counter-measures ready, but Monaco have helped shine a flicker of light on a small chink in their awesome armour.
Atletico Madrid host city rivals Real on Wednesday night aiming to overturn a 3-0 deficit from the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.
Here, we takes a look at some talking points ahead of the tie.
REAL FANS THINK IT IS ALL OVER
After the events of last Tuesday night at the Santiago Bernabeu, and another hat-trick for Cristiano Ronaldo, Real fans could be forgiven if they had already started planning a trip to European club football’s showpiece event in Cardiff on June 3.
No team has overturned more than a one-goal deficit after the first leg of a Champions League semi-final. And don’t forget Real are still gloating from a penalty shoot-out victory over Atletico in last season’s final as well as a 4-1 win in Lisbon three years ago.
A GLIMMER OF HOPE FOR THE HOSTS
Diego Simeone’s men did record a 4-0 triumph in their February 2015 LaLiga clash. On that occasion goals from Tiago, Saul Niguez, Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic sealed Real’s worst loss since they were humbled 5-0 by rivals Barcelona in 2010.
While a repeat looks highly unlikely, in any given 90 minutes of football, pretty much anything can happen – as Paris Saint-Germain found out when they strolled into Barcelona 4-0 up from the first leg of their last 16 encounter.
THE CASE FOR THE DEFENCE
Real’s LaLiga thrashing two years ago came during a defensive injury crisis. Centre-backs Raphael Varane and Pepe have both shaken off niggles, but the latter has not played for a month and Zinedine Zidane may well err on the side of caution.
However, with the likes of Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Alvaro Morata all at his disposal, even if Wales forward Gareth Bale remains sidelined, don’t expect anything else than a formidable frontline ready to kill off the tie at the earliest opportunity.
ATLETICO’S VICENTE CALDERON SWANSONG
Traditionally, the Vicente Calderon has proved one of the most intimidating venues of European football. From next season, though, Atletico’s 51-year residency will come to an end when the club moves to the new 67,000-capacity Wanda Metropolitano in the north of the Spanish capital, which is in the running to host the 2019 Champions League final.
A final European tie is sure to be an emotional occasion – but one which both Los Colchoneros’ players and fans alike must not let get to them if they are to all pull together and produce a comeback fitting for the Vincente Calderon’s Champions League send-off before the area is converted into flats.
ZIDANE VOWS NOT TO SIT BACK
“We are not going to change the way we play,” declared Real Madrid coach Zidane as he faced the media ahead of Wednesday night’s showdown. Given the displays of his team in recent weeks, with a much-changed line-up sweeping past relegated Granada in their last outing, you would not expect anything else.
Real have scored 24 goals in their last seven outings in all competitions, and Los Blancos are currently on a run of having scored in each of their last 60 games in all competitions.
Zidane won't look to defend the 0-3 lead & will attack like always. He also put a journo down questioning if Real won't look to score. 😆👌🏻 pic.twitter.com/p5jRd0amv2— M•A•J (@UltraSuristic_) May 9, 2017
Provide by AFP