Juventus are halfway to their first Champions League semifinal since they were beaten by AC Milan in the final over a decade ago. The Italian champions were convincing in a 1-0 victory at home to Monaco in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie on Wednesday, even if they relied on an Arturo Vidal penalty to take the lead.
The hosts dominated possession from the first whistle, with Monaco sitting deep and inviting pressure. It took the bianconeri just five minutes to create an opening, when Álvaro Morata volleyed an Andrea Pirlo chip wide from inside the penalty area.
However, the game's first clear-cut chance came at the other end five minutes later, when a low cross by Anthony Martial on the counter-attack was fired straight at Gianluigi Buffon by Yannick Ferreira Carrasco.
It was a promising start to the match, though it didn't stay so open. Juve tightened things up at the back, and were in total control for the majority of the half. They should've gone ahead in the 26th minute when Carlos Tevez volleyed a Claudio Marchisio cross straight at goalkeeper Danijel Subašić. They had an even better opportunity on the stroke of half time, though Arturo Vidal sprung the offside trap only to curl wide of Monaco's far post.
The result was the game staying goalless through to the halftime whistle, with Monaco no doubt relieved to have kept their sheet clean.
However, it didn't stay that way for long, with Juve finally breaking the deadlock within 15 minutes after the restart. Álvaro Morata was felled just inside the area by Ricardo Carvalho, allowing Vidal to step up and score a brilliant penalty to break the deadlock.
Monaco were fast running out of time to find an away goal, leading coach Leonardo Jardim to throw Dimitar Berbatov up top. It very nearly paid dividends seconds later, though the Bulgarian headed a corner narrowly off target. It proved to be the last real chance of the game, with the hosts successfully soaking up everything the Monégasques threw their way.
Juventus: Buffon; Evra, Chiellini, Bonucci, Lichtsteiner; Vidal, Pirlo (Barzagli 74'), Marchisio; Pereyra (Sturaro 87'); Tevez, Morata (Matri 83').
Goals: Vidal (pen. 57').
Monaco: Subašić; Kurzawa, Abdennour, Carvalho, Raggi (Berbatov 71'); Kondogbia, Fabinho; Ferreira Carrasco, Moutinho, Dirar (Bernardo Silva 51'); Martial (Matheus Carvalho 87').
1. Juventus are proving narrow teams can succeed in Europe
A defining characteristic of Juventus' play over the last few seasons has been their lack of width -- in both the midfield diamond they played in this match, and in the 3-5-2 they sometimes use, they're wholly reliant on their full-backs to stretch their opponents across the field. However, the downside is that while they're able to dictate play through the middle, narrow, low-block defences like Monaco's can crowd them out without the risk of being penetrated on the flanks. That could've easily been the case in this match, but as it was, intelligent movement in the final third meant that Juventus were able to work the space to do damage.
2. Allegri will have to judge his second leg approach carefully
Juventus were impressive in their domination through this match, with their fluid shape allowing them to dictate possession in Monaco' half. For the second leg, coach Max Allegri has a dilemma: does he try and set up in the same way, looking to defend by way of possession, or does he tell Juve to try and sit back, maybe even reverting to three central defenders? The benefit of the second is more players in defence; its drawback is that Monaco will be able to see more of the ball in midfield, and they have plenty of players dangerous in one-on-one battles. It'll be fascinating to see what decision he makes.
3. Anthony Martial looks a good counter-attacking striker
Before this game, many expected Dimitar Berbatov to start up front for Monaco. However, clearly with the intention of playing on the counter-attack, Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim elected to shift Anthony Martial from his usual possession on the left to one in the middle. It was a good move: Martial's pace and strength made him a real handful for the Juventus defenders, while his intelligent working of the channels created space for his teammates. It was from such a situation that Yannick Ferreira Carrasco really should have scored in the first half. Don't be surprised if Martial keeps this role for the second leg.