Two-goal hero Gonzalo Higuain on Wednesday urged his Juventus teammates to keep their feet on the ground after a brilliant 2-0 win against AS Monaco that left them on the brink of the UEFA Champions League final.
Argentine striker Higuain was set up by Dani Alves to open the scoring in the 29th minute and then converted an Alves cross just before the hour as Juve claimed a seemingly decisive victory in the semi-final first leg at the Stade Louis II.
The Italian champions have the final in Cardiff on June 3 in their sights, with a showdown against holders Real Madrid, Higuain’s former side, looking probable.
“The dream we have been pursuing since August [last year] has been to get to Cardiff and we are just one step away,” said Higuain, who was applauded off by the home supporters in Monaco.
He now has 31 goals this season following his 90 million euro (US$98 million) transfer from SSC Napoli, helping Juve close on a potential treble.
“We have not won anything yet, so we mustn’t get carried away,” Higuain said.
“I always kept calm. I knew everyone had faith in me and that hard work is always rewarded in the end,” the Argentine said.
Juventus were immense in all areas against a Monaco side who have lit up Europe this season with their brand of attacking soccer.
The hosts found the Juve defense to be impermeable, with Gianluigi Buffon majestic as ever in goal.
The 39-year-old, making his 149th European appearance, denied Kylian Mbappe and Radamel Falcao in the first half, then produced a stunning fingertip stop from Valere Germain late on.
“In every game I want to show that I deserve to play at this level, despite my age. I work hard every day for this. The day I quit, I want people to be sad about it,” said Buffon, twice a beaten Champions League finalist. “We had the right approach. They are a fearsome team and the only way to beat them was playing the way we did.”
To put Juve’s performance in the principality into context, Monaco had won their previous 13 home games and scored in 41 consecutive matches at the Stade Louis II since November 2015.
“They were more clinical than us — with two or three chances they scored and we couldn’t put any of ours away. Buffon made some incredible saves,” Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said.
Jardim missed Benjamin Mendy at leftback and Monaco must now attempt to become just the third team ever to overturn a home first-leg deficit in the Champions League in Turin on Tuesday next week.
“It is difficult, but we need to keep believing. The best thing is to believe it is possible, even if we only have a 5 percent chance,” he said.
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