Higuaín on landing knockout blows for Juventus
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Gonzalo Higuaín said: "Goals were not coming for me in this competition but I knew I just had to stay calm and keep working hard," after his heroics at Monaco but warned Juventus the semi-final was not won.
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Gonzalo Higuaín's first UEFA Champions League knockout goals since 2013 were the difference between Juventus and Monaco in the first leg of the semi-finals at Stade Louis II.
For a player of his calibre, a record of only two goals in 24 knockout games prior to Wednesday night's heroics was a statistical anomaly. Doubling his career tally of knockout strikes in the 2-0 win at Monaco was an eloquent response to those who doubted whether it would ever happen for him in the tournament's latter stages.
The Argentinian international, who had last scored in a knockout game for Real Madrid against Galatasaray in the 2013 quarter-finals, admitted: "Goals were not coming for me in this competition but I knew I just had to stay calm and keep working hard."
Signed from Napoli to boost the Bianconeri attack, the 29-year-old's success delighted Massimiliano Allegri, who on the eve of the match had defended his striker, saying Higuaín had played excellently against Barcelona in the quarter-finals, albeit without netting.
After Higuaín's double salvo, Allegri commented: "I'm happy as it means people will stop talking about his scoring record in the knockout stage. He scored two very important goals for us tonight. They were great goals, the first after a wonderful team move and the second after a perfect cross by Dani Alves."
The burly forward's work for the team has always been appreciated by his team-mates, yet there is nothing like scoring, as proved by the joyous hoarding-jumping celebration after his opener at Monaco.
While Juventus are in pole position to reach the final for the second time in three years, Higuaín was careful not to get ahead of himself. The French-born forward said: "Obviously facing Real Madrid in the final would be special as I spent seven years at the club, but we have to focus on the return leg first. The 2-0 win could be a trap if we think we are already through."
With five UEFA Champions League strikes in five knockout games, Monaco forward Kylian Mbappé still outranks Higuaín on career stats, yet the 18-year-old prodigy felt Pipita's finishing taught the home team's youngsters a lesson
Mbappé said: "We weren't clinical enough in front of goal. We created a lot of chances and didn't take them. They had two clear chances and scored two goals."