03.05.2017 22:52 - in: Match report S

    Pipita pair puts one foot in final

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    Gonzalo Higuain strikes either side of half-time to put Juventus in control of their semi-final against Monaco; 2-0 the final score at the Stade Louis II

    Ninety minutes of football separate Juventus and a place in the Champions League final after Gonzalo Higuain’s brace in Monte Carlo means the Bianconeri take a 2-0 lead into next Tuesday’s semi-final return match in Turin.

    This was Higuain’s ninth pair of the season and undoubtedly his most important to date. Striking either side of the break, the Argentine forward fed off two fine assists from Dani Alves and put Massimiliano Allegri’s in full control of this first leg.

    Meanwhile, down the other end of the pitch, the Bianconeri’s backline surpassed the 600-minute mark without conceding in the Champions League, providing the bedrock yet again for another top night’s work on Europe’s main stage.

    Juventus looked to pile the pressure on their hosts from the word go with Dani Alves particularly lively in his advanced right-wing position. First, the Brazilian saw his cross-cum-shot deflected dangerously onto the gloves of Danijel Subasic. Then, he latched on to Miralem Pjanic’s lofted through pass before sending a searching ball just inches in front of Higuain’s forehead with the goal gaping before him.

    From the quarter-hour mark however, Monaco began to pepper the Juve box, Kylian Mbappé striking on the volley from point-blank range to bring a sharp save out of Gianluigi Buffon, who moments later turned Falcao’s header around the post.

    On 29 minutes, Juve were celebrating the breakthrough and in spectacular fashion too: the extremely effective Dani Alves flicked stylishly into the path of an onrushing Higuain who arrowed his shot low into the bottom corner beyond the clutches of a helpless Subasic.

    Dybala warmed the Croatian goalkeeper’s gloves with a long-range free-kick towards the end of the first half, leaving the visitors well worthy of their 1-0 half-time lead but knowing they still had plenty to do still in the second period.

    Eager to make their home advantage count for the next 45 minutes, Monaco wasted no time after the break in testing Buffon again: the 39-year-old did brilliantly to block Falcao’s close-range effort and shortly afterwards, he showed his razor sharp reflexes in racing off his line to gather a loose ball before it could reach Fabinho.

    As Leonardo Jardim’s side poured men forwards in hot pursuit of an equaliser, Allegri’s charges were always dangerous on the counter and might have doubled their advantage on 54 minutes when Claudio Marchisio found himself in space on the edge of the area, his shot cannoning off Subasic’s feet.

    It did not matter: with 59 minutes on the clock, Higuain had struck his and Juventus’ second of the night, Dani Alves once again the provider. His pinpoint cross from the right landed perfectly at the feet of Pipita who, stood a matter of yards out by the far post, simply could not miss.

    Monaco would knock occasionally on the door for the final half-hour, but the Bianconeri’s rock-solid rearguard limited them to half chances until another heart-stopping save from Buffon in injury-time, tipping Valère Germain’s bullet header over the crossbar.

    Once more, Juventus had shown the quality, the resolve and the conviction to get the result that leaves them in command and one game away from Cardiff.

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