Friday 23 June 2017

Alves clears path to Cardiff for Juve's perfect machine

Juventus 2 Monaco 1 (Juventus win 4-1 on agg)

Juventus' Gonzalo Higuain, Dani Alves and Paulo Dybala celebrate at the end of the game. Photo: AP
Juventus' Gonzalo Higuain, Dani Alves and Paulo Dybala celebrate at the end of the game. Photo: AP

Sam Wallace

There have been more exciting sides, and there certainly have been higher-scoring teams in the Champions League final but it is hard to remember one quite so formidable as the great Juventus team of 2017 which is now one game from winning the biggest prize in Europe.

They are in the ninth European Cup final of their history and there was no part of these two semi-final legs against this young and brave Monaco team when it ever looked like it would go another way. Juventus are a team, and a club, who are coming of age again after the dark days of calciopoli in this their second final in three years and perhaps this will be their time in Cardiff on June 3.

It will, in all likelihood be Juventus against Real Madrid: the finest defence in the competition against Cristiano Ronaldo, the competition's greatest ever goalscorer. Something will have to give and on the evidence of this remarkable containment job by the great three-man backline of Leonardo Bonucci, Leonardo Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, it could yet be Juventus' turn to prevail.

No club has lost more European Cup finals than Juventus, with six, and yet you feel in this current part of their history they are close to the perfect machine when it comes to this competition. When at last Kylian Mbappe, the precocious young Frenchman did score for Monaco in the 69th minute it was the first goal from open play in the 12 games played thus far in this competition that Juventus have conceded. They were outstanding, with the full-back Dani Alves a goalscorer and a key figure in the first goal for Milan Mandzukic and never once did it look like Monaco would come close to wresting control of the tie from the Italians.

Real Madrid may lay claim to be the elite European side of the last three years but Juventus, outside the wealthiest elite of the game, with a turnover smaller than the big five in the Premier League, have achieved something remarkable.

The first-half performance was a masterpiece in itself with Juventus' containment of their visitors as complete as any team might hope against one of the paciest attacks in the Champions League.

Mario Mandzukic celebrates with fans after putting Juventus into the lead. Photo: Reuters
Mario Mandzukic celebrates with fans after putting Juventus into the lead. Photo: Reuters

Massimiliano Allegri's side had six attempts on target before the break and scored with two of them, and it was only an outstanding performance from Danijel Subasic in the Monaco goal that stopped the Italian side making this an embarrassment.

Juventus' back three had contained Kylian Mbappe and Radamel Falcao for the opening stages and then around the mid-point of the first half they turned the tables with a spectacular sequence of attacks. Gonzalo Higuain, Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala were all denied by Subasic in quick succession before Mandzukic scored the first on 33 minutes, heading down initially from Dani Alves' cross, and scoring on the rebound after Subasic saved.

It had been a wonderful move to find Alves, with the ball starting from a throw from Gianluigi Buffon and from there Juventus went down the left via Alex Sandro, Dybala, Pjanic and then right to Alves.

When Juventus click they are an awesome attacking side, but it is the defensive side of it that demands respect. Leonardo Barzagli picked up Mbappe in a magnificent first-half performance in which he limited the threat from the young Frenchman by edging him to the margins.

Juventus' goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon gets to the ball ahead of Monaco's Radamel Falcao. Photo: REUTERS
Juventus' goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon gets to the ball ahead of Monaco's Radamel Falcao. Photo: REUTERS

The second Juve goal came when Subasic managed to get a good punched clearance on a corner that fell straight to Alves who struck his volley past the goalkeeper first time.

Juventus controlled the second half and only once did they let Monaco in when Bernardo Silva got to the byline on 69 minutes to cut the ball back for Mbappe to score. Higuain was enraged by Kamil Glik's stamp on his thigh later on and by then Monaco looked tired with too many off the pace. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Juventus forward Paulo Dybala fights for the ball with Monaco defender Jemerson during the Champions League semi-final second leg last night. Photo: GETTY
Juventus forward Paulo Dybala fights for the ball with Monaco defender Jemerson during the Champions League semi-final second leg last night. Photo: GETTY

Telegraph.co.uk

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