Juventus continued their run of dominance in the Champions League, beating AS Monaco 2-1 in the second leg of their semifinal tie and 4-1 on aggregate on the power of another goal and assist from Dani Alves. The Italians are on their way to their second Champions League final in three years, and look to be in incredible form as they try to win their third-ever title in the competition.
AS Monaco came out of the gates swinging and had Juventus knocked off balance in the early goings of the match. They were using their shift in formation — caused partly by an apparent late injury to Nabil Dirar that forced Benjamin Mendy into the lineup — to create more high pressure on Juventus than Monaco enjoyed in the first leg, but they struggled to get anything out of that pressure thanks to Juventus’ back line responding magnificently, despite some early struggles from Gianluigi Buffon against crosses.
Juventus were handed another setback in the 10th minute when, after helping drive their first significant attack of the match, Sami Khedira pulled up holding his left hamstring and then went to the ground, clearly unable to continue in the match. That forced Claudio Marchisio into the game — and the energy he brought seemed to actually help push Juventus through the pressure Monaco were bringing, because they got things stabilized shortly after and started applying pressure of their own in short order.
Once Juventus got their legs behind them and started pushing up into the final third on a regular basis again, it quickly became clear that it was only a matter of time before Monaco’s defense cracked. They did very well to hold out for a good long while, but eventually another cross from Alves — who had two excellent assists in the first leg of this tie — found Mario Mandžukić in front of goal. His first shot was parried by Danijel Subašić, who had made another stellar save against Mandžukić minutes earlier, but this time Mandžukić was able to follow up his shot and hammered the rebound home with authority.
Juventus kept pushing forward, and after a brief surge of attacking play from Monaco again, it was Alves again popping up on a goal — but this time instead of setting one up, he was striking an excellent volley from long range to give Juventus a 4-0 aggregate lead and effectively end any hope of a Monaco comeback just before halftime.
Monaco were able to get some small consolation from the tie, cutting Juventus’ streak of defensive dominance short of 700 minutes without giving up a goal when Kylian Mbappé turned one into goal in the 69th minute. Tempers flared a few minutes later when Gonzalo Higuaín went down and appeared to be stamped on by Monaco defender Kamil Glik — a former player for Juventus’ local rivals Torino — but no foul was called by Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers. That kicked off a very physical and aggressive spell of play from both sides, with Higuaín and Glik going to to toe several more times as well.
That aggression came out in a big way from Juventus, who as a team got much more physical in their challenges and saw players like Higuaín, Mandžukić, and Leonardo Bonucci get into Monaco players’ faces several times — with Mandžukić and Bonucci talking their way into yellow cards — but they still made sure to protect their lead.
Monaco should be proud of what they accomplished this year and not ashamed of this defeat, because beating Juventus just wasn’t on the cards for them with how the Italians are playing. Now Juventus are off to the title, hopeful of improving on their showing from 2015 when they were blown off the pitch by Barcelona late in the match. This is a much better team than that one was, and Max Allegri has been pulling all the right strings this season — it might just be their year.
Juventus: Gianluigi Buffon; Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli; Alex Sandro, Sami Khedira (Claudio Marchisio 10’), Miralem Pjanić, Dani Alves; Mario Mandžukić, Gonzalo Higuaín, Paulo Dybala (Juan Cuadrado 54’)
Goals: Mandžukić (33’), Alves (44’)
AS Monaco: Danijel Subašić; Djibril Sidibé, Jemerson, Kamil Glik, Andrea Raggi; Benjamin Mendy (Fabinho 54’), Tiemoué Bakayoko (Valere Germain 78’), João Moutinho, Bernardo Silva (Thomas Lemar 69’); Kylian Mbappé, Radamel Falcao
Goals: Mbappé (69’)
Three things we learned
Juventus’ defense is incredible
Juventus went 689 minutes without having given up a goal in the Champions League with an incredible overall defensive record this season. They’d conceded just two goals in the Champions League — one apiece to Lyon and Sevilla in the group stage — before this match, and shut out both Porto and Barcelona earlier in the knockout stages, and now held Monaco to one goal over two legs, a trio of teams who aren’t exactly shy about scoring lots of goals. A lot of that is down to the ageless quality of Gianluigi Buffon, but the rest of their defense deserves a lot of credit as well, including manager Max Allegri.
This season, Allegri has been excellent at judging the state of his defenders’ form and fitness when drawing up his tactics and figuring out his rotation, giving everyone the rest they need while never giving up quality in the back. Allegri has done a brilliant job of making tactical and formation tweaks at just the right time for a given matchup or situation, and Juventus have been reaping the rewards of those adjustments all season long — all the way to the Champions League final and yet another Serie A title.
Kylian Mbappé is only one man
Mbappé is a tremendous young player, but there’s only so much he can do on his own. With Radamel Falcao being held quiet by Andrea Barzagli and Bernardo Silva held in check by Claudio Marchisio, there was very little support for Mbappé in the final third, especially during the spells of the match when João Moutinho was struggling to get up the pitch.
Mbappé has incredible skills both on and off the ball, but few players in this game can do everything in attack when they have to work almost completely by themselves. He still did very well to score when he did, but by then it was too little and far too late to rescue the tie for Monaco. These two matches shouldn’t take anything away from Mbappé’s value or esteem — he played magnificently despite Monaco’s struggles — but rather should emphasize that football is a game about a team, rather than the skills of an incredible individual.
Kamil Glik knew exactly what he was doing
Kamil Glik is no stranger to playing in Juventus Stadium. Prior to joining Monaco this past summer, Glik spent five years playing for Torino, Juventus’ cross-town rivals in Turin. He’s played in many editions of the Derby della Mole rivalry between the two teams, and he’s incredibly familiar with just how hostile an atmosphere Juventus’ home stadium can be, and how quickly the wrath of their players can be drawn out.
So when he stamped on Gonzalo Higuaín’s leg — and make no mistake, that’s exactly what he did despite his protestations to the contrary — he knew full well what he was doing and the reaction he would create. He looked straight down at Higuaín as he stepped over and on the Argentine — a player he had several heated clashes with while Higuaín was with Napoli — and then up into the stands. Camera shots taken several minutes later even showed him smiling as boos rained down on him.
Glik knew it would turn the atmosphere of the crowd and gain the ire of the fiery lot of Juventus players — and he knew all of that would be focused on him. It wouldn’t much help Monaco with as big of an aggregate gap, but if he could distract Juventus at all to create the tiniest opening for them to crawl through, it would be worth it. It wasn’t a bad idea, it was just much too late to matter.