Juventus shut out Monaco to book Champions League semi-final slot
Juventus were jubilant as they saw out an intriguing stalemate with Monaco at Stade Louis II to secure safe passage to the Champions League semi-finals.
The Old Lady ground out a gritty result and, while it may not have been pretty, the Italians can look back at an excellent exercise in containing the opposition.
Hosts Monaco huffed and puffed but could not muster enough threat to blow down Juve’s bank of royal blue shirts, as Massimiliano Allegri reverted to the tried and trusty 3-5-2 formation that has seen the Old Lady enjoy so much recent success.
Monaco certainly enjoyed the best moments from the first half, though, looking every inch the home team as they dominated possession and proceedings. However, calculated Juve had a game plan and were never going to go gung-ho.
Following spot-kick controversy in Turin last time out, Monaco missed out on being awarded one in reply, after impressive Geoffrey Kondogbia found himself sandwiched between Giorgio Chiellini, earlier carded for a bizarre handball, and Arturo Vidal, in the penalty area.
It was not the first time Monaco’s midfield engine caused the Old Lady aggravation though, as the fiesty Frenchman fired his club’s first shot on target, after smoothly evading and outmuscling Andrea Pirlo.
Playmaker Pirlo, meanwhile, was quieter than usual due to Juventus’ conservative approach. The evergreen Italian was always ready to provide an outlet, though, and almost unlocked Monaco’s defence with a perfect pass in the 26th minute, forcing stopper Danijel Subasic to rush off his line.
It was Monaco’s pretender to Pirlo’s pass-master crown, Joao Moutinho, who carved out perhaps the best chance of the game. The Portuguese effortlessly instigated intricate play before slipping compatriot Bernardo Silva through on goal, but centre back Andrea Barzagli’s lucky touch sent the wingman’s shot just wide.
That early chance summed up the French principality club’s evening, as they repeatedly failed to find a cutting edge, and the Old Lady remained relatively unruffled.
Both of Juventus’ best chances fell to an unusually tepid Carlos Tevez, who toiled fruitlessly up top with fellow forward Alvaro Morata.
Argentine attacker Tevez showed but glimpses of his goal threat, as he wrestled the ball from Andrea Raggi on the edge of Monaco’s area, only to see the chance peter out, followed closely by a vicious 44th minute strike that flew inches wide.
It was the hosts who began on the front foot after the break, however, bursting out of the blocks to stun their visitors. Tevez’s former Manchester United clubmate Dimitar Berbatov emerged for the second half, but it was silky Silva and fellow wideman Yannick Carrasco who both slipped in the box to spurn a golden opportunity.
Leonardo Jardim’s men must have known lady luck was not on their side when the Old Lady also survived super stopper Gianluigi Buffon’s scramble to clear Silva’s curling cross and, after a purple patch of pressure, Monaco’s resistance eventually wilted.
Juventus (8/1 to win the Champions League with Coral) will return to Turin pleased with two consecutive clean sheets and patient performances against the principality side, but will need more than just a cultured defensive game to get past one of big-guns Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich in the next round.