Monaco: Juventus are through to the last four of the Champions League for the first time since 2003 after a goalless draw in their quarter-final, second leg with Monaco on Wednesday saw them progress 1-0 on aggregate.
Juventus' players celebrate after they qualifyed for the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League following the quarter final second leg football match AS Monaco vs Juventus FC at the Louis II Stadium in Monaco. Pic/AFP
A controversial Arturo Vidal penalty in the first leg in Turin last week ultimately proved enough for the Serie A leaders, who relied on their defensive strength to see off opponents again let down by their lack of quality in the final third. A Monaco side full of youthful enthusiasm pushed forward for long spells, but Juventus -- who had let in just one goal in their previous nine matches -- always looked in control and veteran 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon was never seriously threatened.
The Italian giants came closest to scoring from a 90th-minute Andrea Pirlo free-kick that clipped the bar and can now look forward to Friday's semi-final draw, where they will not mind being considered the underdogs alongside Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid. "Tonight was important. There was a lot of pressure on the players after 12 years of waiting," Juve's French full-back Patrice Evra told beIN Sports.
"Juve were the favourites but credit to Monaco because they deserved more. It's the Italian way, it's ugly but it works." Monaco, meanwhile, bow out with their heads held high, but it was easy to see why they had found the net just three times in four previous home games in the Champions League this season and had won only two of their last nine matches at the Stade Louis II.
"I am proud of what we did over the two games. Monaco were never inferior to Juventus. We played good football and showed all of Europe our individual and collective quality," said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim. Aware of the need to find a creative spark, Jardim gave a start to Portuguese dynamo Bernardo Silva, who had scored the principality club's last three goals domestically. With him in the team, teenager Anthony Martial preferred to Dimitar Berbatov up front and veteran defender Ricardo Carvalho missing altogether, it was a youthful Monaco side that took to the field at the Stade Louis II, which for once was packed for the occasion.
Unsurprisingly, a Juve team with a lead to defend and packed full of wily campaigners was happy to soak up the pressure. They invited the hosts on to them, but Monaco were largely restricted to attempts from long range, including two from the impressive Geoffrey Kondogbia, a thunderous volley that flew wide and another shot that was straight at Buffon.
When they did make it into the box, the breaks did not go their way, with Andrea Barzagli almost turning a Silva cutback into his own net before Kondogbia had a strong penalty appeal waved away after Vidal clattered into him in the area without appearing to touch the ball. Scottish referee Willie Collum waved play on and did so again when Fabinho upended Alvaro Morata just before the interval, allowing the advantage as Carlos Tevez smashed a shot just past the post.
That was a reminder of Juve's threat, but such forages forward from the Italians became even more rare in the second half, as they dug in and repelled wave after wave of attack from the hosts. Monaco were set up for a more direct approach after Berbatov replaced Jeremy Toulalan at the start of the second period, but while they frequently got into dangerous positions, the quality of their final ball was dreadful.
Buffon did however have Evra to thank for mopping up the danger after he flapped at a Joao Moutinho cross and was then forced to race off his line to beat Berbatov to a short back-pass. Pirlo then saw his dipping, swerving free-kick hit the woodwork, but that would have merely been the icing on the cake had it gone in.