The Old Lady, Juventus secured an easy return to their second Champions League final in three seasons as they defeated French club Monaco with a 2-1 home win in front of 40,000 spectators and a 4-1 aggregate win.
Dani Alves was in outstanding form just as he was in the first leg as yet another brilliant Juventus performance in this season’s Champions League saw a 2-1 win over Monaco look ridiculously easy.
The Italian teams dominance of Serie A in the last few years is yet to translate into success on the continental stage, but the Bianconeri have never looked better placed to win a third European crown than Massimiliano Allegri’s current team do.
Along with Sami Khedira and Mario Mandzukic, Alves is one of just three players in this squad to have won the big trophy and the Brazilian followed up two assists at Stade Louis II with another star turn, helping Mandzukic to the nerve-settling opener before blasting in before the break to allow 45 minutes of joyous celebrating and frantic seeking of hostelries in Cardiff.
Once more Kylian Mbappe’s skill and tenacity was rewarded with a second-half goal that rounds off a stunning debut season. It’s hard to believe the guy is still only 18 years of age.
Though Monaco’s brilliant babes will not share a European crown before they are sold off to the highest bidder, they are tantalisingly close to the Ligue 1 crown, and surely the likes of Bernardo Silva, Thomas Lemar and Mbappe will have greater tales to tell in this competition over the next decade.
But those prodigies and their wise old figurehead Radamel Falcao barely laid a glove on Juve over two legs and the determined trio of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will relish a showpiece battle, with Real Madrid.
The Juve defence is still to be breached from open play in this season’s competition and, having played the underdog to Barcelona two years ago, Allegri’s stronger, slicker side may well head to the Welsh capital of Cardiff the venue for the final as favourites this time around.
Gianluigi Buffon stretched out a tweaked back in the warm-up and flapped at an early cross before Mbappe beat him to a high ball and struck a post amid the raising of an offside flag and there were further signs of danger for Juve when Khedira twanged a hamstring and had to be replaced by Claudio Marchisio. However, Juventus thundered back into the contest, Kamil Glik and Danijel Subasic desperately denying Gonzalo Higuain and Mandzukic before the Croatian striker finally found a way through.
As in the first leg, Alves found the key to unlock Monaco, his pin-perfect cross finding Mandzukic, who lashed high into the net after Subasic brilliantly denied his initial header. Chiellini then celebrated a brilliant goal line clearance as if he had scored.
Subasic denied Paulo Dybala one-on-one but was left flailing when he punched the resulting corner onto Alves’ right boot and the three-time Champions League winner returned with interest, smashing a laser-guided volley into the net.
Buffon was beginning to look unbeatable as he sprawled to deny Mbappe one-on-one but the teenager would have his goal soon after as he turned in from inches after Joao Moutinho got to the byline from a short corner. Incredibly this was Monaco’s 150th goal of the season. With that goal Mbappe become the youngest player to score in a Champions League semi-final at just 18 years and 140 days.
Higuain was left enraged after collecting some war wounds from former Torino defender Glik as the visitors grew tetchy in the closing stages, but the Argentine will recover for another assault on a major final.
Juventus will now play Real Madrid in the final in Wales despite the Spanish giants losing their second leg 2-1 to locals rivals Atletico Madrid.
This was to be Atletico Madrid’s last Champions League game at Vicente Calderon and although it ended in victory, Real Madrid will meet Juventus in the final. Real Madrid reached a third Champions League final in four years after seeing off Atletico Madrid with a 4-2 aggregate win in their semi-final tie on Wednesday.
Two goals in the first 16 minutes from Atletico threatened to produce another memorable comeback in this season’s tournament. Unfortunately Isco hadn’t read the script and his shot just before half-time effectively ended those hopes and sealed an away goal and ultimately an aggregate victory.
The players were greeted with a tifo from the home fans proclaiming ‘proud to be different to you’ as they walked out onto the pitch for the last European game at Vicente Calderon, but Atletico’s electric start was very much in the mould of Madrid’s in the first leg.
Darting about like a cat on a hot tin roof Saul Niguez thumped in a header with 12 minutes gone before Antoine Griezmann converted a penalty to get Diego Simeone’s side believing in a turnaround.
Madrid have made a habit of digging deep to salvage results this term, though, and Isco’s finish from close range on 42 minutes – his first in the Champions League this season – handed Zinedine Zidane’s side a crucial away goal.
Atleti persevered but there was little real hope in their second-half efforts, as they suffered European heartbreak against their city rivals for the fourth time in as many seasons.
Madrid’s hopes of becoming the first team to defend the Champions League remain intact, however, and they will face Juventus – the team Zidane left as a player to move to Santiago Bernabeu, who knocked out Monaco on Tuesday – in next month’s final.
For Isco he scored his first Champions League goal since April 2014 versus Borussia Dortmund and ended a barren run of 30 games in the competition without scoring and it was enough to see Real Madrid over the line.
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