Real Madrid all but booked their spot in the UEFA Champions League final with a resounding win on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Juventus took a major step of their own.
In Wednesday’s semifinal first leg, Juventus used a brace from striker Gonzalo Higuain to defeat Monaco, 2-0, at the Stade Louis II on Wednesday afternoon. Coming into this match with only two goals in 30 career knockout stage matches, Higuain lifted his season total to 31 across all competitions.
However, it was the hosts who started off strongly, and more dangerous to score. Kylian Mbappe saw two efforts saved by Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon, while Radamel Falcao also saw his header saved by the 39-year-old goalkeeper.
A fast break by the visitors after 29 minutes saw the opening goal as Higuain finished off Dani Alves’ back heel assist. The Argentinian’s right-footed effort found the bottom left corner past a diving Danijel Subasic.
Falcao’s 46th-minute effort was saved by Buffon, while Bernardo Silva’s long-range strike also was repelled by the Italian keeper. Higuain then doubled Juventus’ lead after 59 minutes, again finishing off Alves’ assist, this time to the center of the goal.
The introduction of Valere Germain and Joao Moutinho for Monaco could not help the Municipality side find a way through. At the final whistle, Juventus now take a two-goal lead back to Turin for next week’s second leg.
Buffon made five saves in the win, while Subasic made two in the defeat. The loss for Monaco, snapped an 11-match winning run for Leonardo Jardim’s side, who hadn’t lost since Feb. 21.Massimiliano Allegri’s team has not allowed a goal in their last six Champions League matches, with the last coming in a 3-1 victory against Sevilla back on Nov. 22.
Monaco now has it all to do, if they want to book their first UCL finals appearance since 2004. Juventus is searching for their first finals appearance since a 3-1 defeat to Barcelona back in 2015.
AJAX ROLLS PAST LYON IN EUROPA LEAGUE SEMIFINAL FIRST LEG
Ajax took a first step to booking a spot into the UEFA Europa League final later this month with a 4-1 first leg victory over Lyon on Wednesday. Peter Bosz’s side received a brace from striker Bertrand Traore which propelled them to a dominant win.
Traore’s first goal came 25 minutes in, after the 21-year-old forward headed home from a set-piece situation. Kasper Dolberg scored his fifth goal of the competition, finishing off Traore’s assist in the 34th minute as Ajax took a 2-0 lead into the halftime break at the Amsterdam Arena.
Amin Younes extended the hosts lead to 3-0 in the 49th minute, scoring from a right-footed effort inside the box. Mathieu Valbuena’s finish in the 66th minute pulled Lyon back to within two.
Traore’s 71st-minute goal capped the final score at 4-1, despite both sides seeing later efforts saved. Ajax rolled off a whopping 16 shots on goal with Lyon keeper Anthony Lopes saving 13 of them. Ajax’s Andre Onana made seven saves in the comfortable victory.
Lyon returns home to the Parc OL on May 11, looking to overturn a 4-1 first leg deficit while Ajax is looking for the club’s Europa League title since 1992.
The second semifinal in the Europa League takes place on Thursday as Manchester United travels to Celta Vigo.