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June 29, 2017

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No comeback this time as Barca crash out of CL

BARCELONA, Spain -- Juventus put on a masterclass of defensive football to reach the Champions League semifinals on Wednesday, frustrating Lionel Messi and earning a 0-0 draw against a Barcelona side hoping for another miraculous comeback.

The second-leg stalemate sealed a 3-0 win on aggregate and came six weeks after Barcelona's historic 6-1 thrashing of Paris Saint-Germain, when the home side became the first team to ever overturn a 4-0 loss in the competition.

The Italians visitors made sure there would be no more miracles at Camp Nou by displaying all the poise and experience that PSG had sorely lacked in the previous round.

"We knew Barcelona were ready to risk everything tonight, but we closed down all the spaces," Juventus centerback Leonardo Bonucci said. "Scoring three in the first leg and not conceding at the Camp Nou is the evidence that we are a great team. I think every team would like to avoid us now."

True to the Italian tradition of defending an advantage, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had little work to do until late in the game, as Massimiliano Allegri's side expertly absorbed Barcelona's passing attack that ultimately produced few good scoring opportunities.

And when Messi did get free inside the area, Barcelona's all-time leading scorer squandered both his chances to spark a fightback.

The only miracle seen in Barcelona this time was Juventus not getting a late goal, with the Spanish side barely having the legs to recover when defending.

Barcelona forward Neymar was consoled by former teammate Dani Alves, now playing for Juventus, after the final whistle while Barcelona's fans cheered their team despite the elimination.

"Juventus is a great team and they were better than us," Barcelona defender Gerard Pique said. "It was a difficult result to turn around, although we tried until the end. They are an Italian club and defend very well. I wish them the best and I think they can win the title."

Juventus joins Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Monaco in the semifinal draw on Friday.

Monaco advanced after beating Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in its quarterfinal, second leg on Wednesday for a 6-3 aggregate win. Teenager Kylian Mbappe and forward Radamel Falcao struck early to put Monaco on its way.

Juventus will be without midfielder Sami Khedira for the first leg of the semifinals after he earned a yellow for fouling Suarez.

The two-time European champions are set to complete an excellent campaign. Having now avenged their 2015 Champions League final loss to Barcelona, Juventus also leads the Italian league and has lined up an Italian Cup final against Lazio.

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