Vidal's PK winner gives Juventus first-leg edge over Monaco

BY Jerry Trecker • April 14, 2015

It was not an altogether convincing performance, but Juventus did enough to build a 1-0 lead in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal Tuesday night in Turin while Monaco once-again demonstrated their status as the rank outsiders in this competition is a misnomer.

Certainly the visitors did more than defend, willing to take the game to Juventus at times, but their lack of concise finishing cost them the opportunity to record a major result. Instead, a 57th minute penalty from Arturo Vidal, awarded in somewhat controversial circumstances, decided the match and left everything to play for next week in the Principality.

When Juventus finally got on top it was thanks to a wonderful long ball from Andrea Pirlo, straight down the middle for Alvaro Morata to chase against a stretched defense. Morata got the step on Ricardo Carvalho, who clipped his heels perhaps just into the box to concede the penalty kick.

Referee Pavel Kralovec, after deciding it was a penalty rather than a free kick on the 18, showed Carvalho yellow, a reasonable decision as red would have been harsh on the contact which was clearly not a professional last-man take down. Vidal stepped up to take the penalty and hammered it into the top left corner in the 57th minute.

''It's a great injustice, the penalty was non-existent and I hope that doesn't have an influence on the final result of this tie,'' Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said. ''I thought we would get a better result. But we showed that we are well organized, that we are a good team and we created a lot of difficulties for Juve.

''I like justice and for me the rules and regulations should be the same for everyone in sport and in life. I'm disappointed... I am convinced the result is due to a wrong decision taken by the match officials.''

Juventus, bidding to return to a Champions League semifinal for the first time since 2003, welcomed back Pirlo after an absence of seven matches. The influential midfielder had been injured in the first leg of Juventus' knockout round tie against Borussia Dortmund and had not played since. Carvalho passed a late fitness test to start in the Monaco defense, then wound up with the unwanted foul which gave Juventus its only goal.

The expected script did not materialize as Monaco presented more of an attacking face than had been forecast. Whether Juventus was surprised or simply unable to settle early, the best chances fell to the visitors, particularly a 10th-minute opportunity for Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco that may ultimately cost Monaco dearly.

Fine work from Anthony Martial created the opening for Carrasco, alone against Gianluigi Buffon from smack in the middle of the box. Carrasco had time to pick either corner but instead put his shot directly at the veteran Italian goalkeeper. A minute later Carrasco had another go, Buffon getting down to his left-hand post to palm away a deflection.

Juventus finally got some midfield traction halfway through the first period, Pirlo starting to have some possession and influence. His long ball created a space for Roberto Pereyra to find Vidal in the 26th minute, but Vidal put his shot wide. Carlos Tevez had a look a minute later but vollied weakly straight into the arms of Danijel Subasic.

Without truly testing Subasic, Juventus controlled much of the run-in to the interval, but Vidal hammered a shot well wide in the final minute after a delightful pass from Tevez. Although Juventus had perhaps a slight edge over the 90 minutes, they were not able to seize momentum after the spot kick goal and did not look like adding to their tally.

Monaco turned up the pressure instead and forced the home side to defend for stretches. Dimitar Berbatov had a header fly just over the bar in the 72nd minute but Buffon was not under the kind of pressure that might have led to a significant away goal for Monaco.

Instead, the French Ligue 1 side will need to figure out a way to score at home next Wednesday in the second leg, an assignment that might be made more problematical given Juventus' known ability to hit on the counter-attack when playing on the road.

''I haven't seen (the penalty) again so I can't judge,'' Allegri said. ''It seemed to be a foul as a last man, however from the bench I didn't see if it was outside or inside. People who want to enjoy themselves can go to the circus. We have one objective and that is getting through. I'm happy with the result and the performance in parts, especially how we managed to defend at the end without conceding.''


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