Gonzalo Higuain’s brace sends Juve closer to UCL final

Serie A giants Juventus inched closer to a second Champions League final in three seasons as Gonzalo Higuain struck twice to beat Monaco in the semi-final first leg.


The French hosts were lively at the start with Kylian Mbappe heading at Gianluigi Buffon before forcing another low save.


However, Higuain ruthlessly finished two fine Dani Alves assists, sweeping the Brazilian’s back heel in on 29 minutes.


Striker Radamel Falcao went close for Monaco after the break before Alves’ measured cross saw Higuain put Juve in control.


Following Real Madrid’s comprehensive first-leg win over city rivals Atletico on Tuesday, it now appears almost certain that both teams will clash in Cardiff, Wales, on 3 June, a repeat of the 1998 final, in which the Spanish side beat Juve 1-0.


It will prove fitting, as the two sides boast of the only unbeaten records in this season’s competition.


Monaco, free scoring and dangerous with their youthful side all season, showed moments of threat which could unnerve Juve in the second leg on 9 May.


But at Stade Louis II, Massimiliano Allegri’s side showed just how efficient they can be and Monaco’s task looks huge as Juve have not lost a home fixture by two goals since April 2013.


This was another victory built on organised defensive work, with Buffon making a couple of key saves to help usher in a ninth Juve clean sheet in 11 Champions League matches this season.


Buffon’s low stop from 18-year-old Mbappe inside 10 minutes illustrated the narrative this fixture threw up as experience met youthful exuberance.


Allegri’s squad boasted almost three times as many Champions League appearances in total as their hosts, who are seeking a first final appearance since 2004.


The Italian side sat deep for spells, hitting Monaco with a flowing move for the opener before pouncing to rob Tiemoue Bakayoko deep in his own half before the second.


Buffon’s low save from Falcao at 1-0 underlined the resistance Monaco faced.


Ultimately the experience 39-year-old keeper said would be crucial before kick-off shone through as his side squeezed the life from Monaco, preventing the Ligue 1 leaders from scoring at home for the first time since November 2015.