The 39-year old Gianluigi Buffon, who might be playing his final game in Champions League, was finally breached after 690 minutes of play time in the European competition. And it was by none other than the 18-year old teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe.
Playing against Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco at Turin for the second leg of Champions League semi-final, Juventus’s steely defence, which had seen zero goals conceded in the last six games, was finally broken by Mbappe in the 69th minute on Tuesday.
It was a too-little-too-late effort from the young Frenchman, as Juventus had already taken a two goal lead with Mario Mandzukic and Dani Alves finding the back of the net for the Old Lady. But it was a moment which cemented Mbappe’s bright future ahead – after all he did something which the great Lionel Messi has never been able to do so far in his career. A classic act by Buffon himself who gave a hug and kiss on forehead to the 18-year old in a “father figure” act, might go down as Mbappe’s highlight for the day, even if his goal went in vain.
With 4-1 aggregate scoreline, Juventus reached Champions League final for the second time in the last three years and will face Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid at Cardiff, who made their way past Atletico Madrid. A day which started with the home side playing exciting football in the first twenty minutes, with Saul Niguez and Antoine Griezmann getting two goals back for the team, ended up becoming a cagey affair after brilliant skill display by “under-appreciated” Karim Benzema.
The Frenchman dribbled past three defenders, ran past the end-line and set up the goal for Toni Kroos, whose effort was saved by Jan Oblak, only to end up in the net a second later by Isco. Benzema, who has faced criticism in recent days, redeemed himself with a stellar performance and went back to the dugout with a standing ovation from the Real Madrid fans after being replaced in the second half.
The 2-1 scoreline meant the aggregate going up to 4-2 in favour of Real with one away goal advantage. In spite of several efforts by Diego Simeone’s side to rattle Madrid’s midfield with some rough play, Los Blancos booked themselves the chance to become the first team to win the Champions League two times in a row since 1990.
But to lift the coveted trophy, Zidane, who played for Juventus between 1996 and 2001, has to prepare his side against Buffon, the same figure who held France in 2006 World Cup final and ensured Italy’s victory. “It will of course be special to play Juventus because they were a club very important to me as a player, and a club that also gave me everything. Now I am with Real Madrid, the club of my life, and it will be a beautiful final,” the French manager said at a press conference.
For Buffon, it could be his last shot at winning the Champions League. It would hurt the Italian to lose it to another Spanish giant for the second time in three years.