MILAN (Reuters) - Gonzalo Higuain rose to the big occasion with his two goals against AS Monaco on Wednesday -- something critics say the Juventus has forward often failed to do.
The Argentine forward, who gave Juventus a 2-0 away win in their Champions League semi-final first leg to put them on the brink of a place in the final, has a prolific scoring record overall.
He hit a Serie A record of 36 goals Napoli in the 2015-16 season, inspiring Juventus to pay the world’s third highest transfer fee of 90 million euros ($97.99 million) for him last July.
Yet, there has always been a sneaking suspicion that he can go missing during the bigger matches.
He had not scored in his previous seven Champions League knockout ties before Wednesday, a run that included last month’s quarter-final against Barcelona in which he missed three presentable chances over the two legs.
Overall, his scoring record in the Champions League is 18 in 63 games -- well below the ratio of 94 goals in his 138 Serie A appearances for Napoli and Juventus.
One of his most crucial misses came three seasons ago when he squandered a penalty against Lazio which could have taken Napoli into the Champions League.
Needing to win their last game of the season to finish third, Napoli were level at 2-2 when Higuain, who had scored both goals, undid his good work by firing a spot kick over the crossbar.
His failure to score in three successive finals for Argentina has also not helped his cause.
Millions of viewers witnessed him squander a golden chance in the 2014 World Cup final against Germany when he was clean through on goal but sent an unconvincing shot wide. Germany went on to win 1-0.
The following year, he missed in the shootout, sending a wild effort over the bar, as Argentina lost to Chile on penalties in the Copa America final.
Last year, there was another glaring miss with only the goalkeeper to beat as Argentina drew with Chile in the Copa Centenario final and again lost on penalties.
On Wednesday, another frustrating night appeared to be on the cards when he slipped in trying to reach a Paulo Dybala pass, but after that gave a typical performance of selfless running and ruthless finishing.
He capped it with two goals, one with each foot, taking his tally for the season to 31 in all competitions.
“I work for the team. It would have been ok even if I hadn’t scored tonight, as long as Juve won,” he said.
Asked about Higuain’s work rate, coach Massimiliano Allegri replied: ”He always plays like that.
”He scored two nice goals, which were above all important. “I‘m happy as they can’t say any more that he doesn’t score in Europe.”
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Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by John O'Brien