Juventus stroll into their second Champions League final in three years with dominant victory over Monaco

Juventus 2 (4) AS Monaco 1 (1): Goals from Mario Mandžukić and Dani Alves fired the Italian team into the final where they will play either Atlético Madrid or current champions Real

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The Independent Football

Has a win this important against an opponent this good ever looked so easily routine? Juventus strolled into the Champions League final here, completing a 4-1 aggregate defeat of Monaco that barely covers their all-aspects superiority over three hours of play. Many of these semi-finals turn on one decision, one mistake or one set piece. But this one did not.

And this was Monaco, the team who have lit up this season’s Champions League.

They knocked out Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund. They play unstoppable attacking football and have now scored 150 goals in all competitions this season. They are about to win Ligue 1. They have, in Kylian Mbappe and Bernardo Silva, two of the best young players in Europe.

But here this evening, and at the Stade Louis II last week, Juventus’ veterans  made Monaco look like boys. After winning the first leg 2-0 with incisive ruthlessness, this was never going to be as much of a test for Juventus. Not here at home, where they are as close impregnable and unbeatable as any team can be.

Juventus had to see off some early pressure, which of course they did, but then they got their grip on the game and never let go. They scored two goals of brilliant quality, Mario Mandzukic and Dani Alves. All of their big names, from Giorgio Chiellini to Miralem Pjanic to Gonzalo Higuain did everything expected of them. This is a team built for European Cup finals and once they were 2-0 up on the night there was never any doubt they were heading for Cardiff.

The second half was an unusual thing, a final 45 minutes of a semi-final in which there was no competitive tension whatsoever. Monaco needed four goals and there was never the remotest chance they would get them. Mbappe scored one, which gives him and his team something to show for a season of bravery and swagger on the biggest stages. But no-one ever thought it would mean anything.

So the result on the night, 2-1, should not be taken to mean this was a close-run thing. It was not. It was a team doing exactly what they needed to do, with the nous and brains of men who have been here before. Juventus have to go to Roma on Sunday, needing just a point to see out their sixth straight Serie A title. There are two more league games after that then of course the final at the Millennium Stadium on 3 June. Juventus can end their 20-year drought in this competition that evening. Why waste more energy here than they needed to?

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Juventus were on top throughout this semi-final tie (Getty)

Monaco knew that they would have to make history to get out of here with a ticket to Cardiff next month. Only one team has ever lost by two goals at home and then gone through, and that was Ajax in 1969, and they needed a play-off on neutral ground to do it.

Still, it was worth a try and Leonardo Jardim did come with a plan. He switched to a 3-4-1-2, pushing wing-backs Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibe high up. The plan was to pin back Dani Alves and Alex Sandro, and, for a few minutes at least, it worked. Mendy started swinging in crosses, Gianluigi Buffon flapped at one, and when a Joao Moutinho shot deflected to Kylian Mbappe, his narrow-angle dart hit the inside of the post.

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Mandzukic celebrates his opening goal (AFP/Getty Images)

But Juventus are always more in control than they look. In the first leg they were under early pressure, but they were never actually rattled. They were just defending. Juventus had not conceded at home for more than 10 hours, and not conceded in Europe since November. They know what they are doing.

They also knew that with the quality they had, they could kill Monaco on the counter. Gonzalo Higuain burst through but could not get enough on a chip. Higuain set up Mario Mandzukic, whose shot was saved. Paolo Dybala set up Miralem Pjanic, whose shot was blocked.

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Alves volleyed home Juve's second-goal (Getty)

A goal felt inevitable and it came from another brilliant break. The ball went from Dybala to Marchisio to Alves who swung a perfect cross round the back of the Monaco defence. Up popped Mandzukic at the far post. His header was saved so he lifted the rebound in the roof of the net.

More noise followed with more attacks and in the last minute of the half Juventus scored again. Danijel Subasic punched out a corner but it fell to Alves, 25 yards out. Such a good player, playing so well, and his volley flew into the corner of the net before Subasic could recover. It was that kind of night.

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Mbappe scored a late consolation (Getty)

Juventus had conceded two goals in 11 Champions League games before this one this season so Monaco scoring four was always a stretch. They can be proud of the fact that they managed one, and of course it came from Mbappe. He forced Buffon into one sharp near-post save before eventually tucking in a Moutinho cross.

But there was never any siege, never any panic, especially as Juventus slowed the game down and saw out time. The only real issue was when Kamil Glik stamped on Higuain’s knee, risking injuring him for the final. But even then he played on and Juventus kept their heads.

This team knows something about getting the results they want, which is why they have won so much over the years. There is still one big one they have not got in their cabinet here, the one they want more than anything else. But when they win like this, against Monaco, who would bet against them?

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