Buffon warning as Juventus reach Champions League final
Italian side will likely face Real Madrid in Cardiff as they try to avoid a third final defeat since 1996
Juventus 2 Monaco 1 [Juventus win 4-1 on aggregate]
Juventus reached their second Champions League final in three seasons with a comfortable second leg victory over Monaco. With a two goal advantage from their first leg, it needed something special from the French side against an Italian outfit who hadn't conceded in the knockout stage before last night.
Monaco never managed anything magical and the outcome was a foregone conclusion once Mario Mandzukic had given Juventus the lead on 33 minutes.
Dani Alves made it 2-0 ten minutes later with a crisp volley and although Kylian Mbappe scored for Monaco on 70 minutes it was nothing more than a consolation goal for the visitors.
Juventus, who last won the Champions League in 1996, will meet the winner of the Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid semi-final at Cardiff next month with Real expected to progress after winning the first leg 3-0.
Juventus lost 3-1 to Barcelona in the 2015 Champions League final but coach Max Allegri believes they are in a better place now than they were two years ago. "Hopefully this is the right year," he said. "I think Juventus have a very good chance of winning the Champions League. Over two legs it's always more difficult. In a one-off game, you need to be focused on the details, because details make all the difference."
Juventus remain on course for a European and domestic treble but Allegri warned his squad about the importance of seeing the job through to its conclusion. "We need to be more concentrated," he said. "I am glad for the lads, they reached the final, but from tomorrow we have to focus, because we've won nothing yet."
One Juventus player who won't be taking anything for granted is veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who was a losing Champions League finalist with the club in 2003 and 2015. The 39-year-old praised his teammates for their attitude against Monaco but echoed the sentiments of his coach. "If we'd taken to the pitch thinking we were already through we would have found it tough but we were ready to react to everything they threw at us," said Buffon. "That's how we got through. We've got to Cardiff… but getting to the final means nothing."
Juventus triumph sets up final showdown with Real Madrid
Monaco 0 Juventus 2
Barring a serious upset in the second legs, next month's Champions League final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff will be a re-run of the 1998 showdown between Real Madrid and Juventus.
Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid 3-0 on Tuesday evening and Juventus were just as dominant away from home against Monaco, heading back to Italy with a two-goal advantage that will take something extraordinary to overturn.
And it's no surprise that the two clubs look destined to meet in the final because they boast the only unbeaten records in this season's competition and it should make for a fascinating encounter in Cardiff on 3 June.
Not that Monaco are completely out of it. The French side, the surprise package of this season's Champions League, looked the more likely to score in the opening minutes of Wednesday's tie at the Stade Louis II with Kylian Mbappe twice forcing Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon to make sharp saves. But once the visitors had soaked up the early pressure they began to assert their experience and organisation with veteran Dani Alves increasingly influential.
It was the Brazilian's backheel that led to the opening goal, Gonzalo Higuain capitalising on the deft flick, after a wonderful team move, to put Juventus ahead on the half-hour mark.
The pair then combined on 60 minutes to double the Italians' advantage, Higuain prodding home Alves cross at the back post for his 31st goal of the season. "I fight so hard for these moments," Higuain said. "Goals were not coming for me in this competition but I knew I just had to stay calm and keep working hard."
Radamel Falcao came closest for Monaco but Buffon was equal to the task as Juventus recorded their ninth clean sheet in eleven Champions League matches this season.
"We made a few too many mistakes and Buffon made a great save when it was 0-0," said Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri. "When the going gets tough, you know Gigi can be relied upon. He's the best in the world and when there is a big game, he's always ready."
Juventus last lost a home game by two goals or more in April 2013 but despite their healthy position, Allegri believed "we could've played better technically". And he had this warning for his side ahead of Tuesday's return leg: "The lads are having a great season but in order to make it extraordinary we need to be calm and focused," he said. "The job is not complete. Monaco will come to Turin with nothing to lose."