Wahbi Khazri double compounds Monaco’s problems as Saint-Étienne climb to second
AS Monaco continued their dismal start to the season with a 2-0 loss at Saint-Étienne on Friday. A deftly-taken double from Tunisian midfielder Wahbi Khazri was enough to see off Les Monégasques, who had chances of their own but were deservedly beaten on the night. They now have not won since their opening day victory against Nantes and languish in 18th position. Saint-Étienne, by contrast, momentarily climbed to second spot, only to be later ousted by Lille and Montpelier.
The match got off to an inauspicious start for Monaco when a misplaced backpass in the 11th minute allowed the lively Khazri a sight of goal, though keeper Diego Benaglio was alert to the danger and hacked clear. Saint-Étienne striker Loïs Diony should have had the ball in the back of the net minutes later but couldn’t make clean contact with Khazri’s cutback. The early onslaught continued as Rémy Cabella clipped the crossbar with a long-range effort on 26 minutes.
Monaco almost took an unlikely lead moments later when a slip by Saint-Étienne captain Loïc Perrin allowed Moussa Sylla to charge through clean on goal. Sylla rounded keeper Stéphane Rouffier but Perrin made amends, getting back in time to block his shot off the line. Monaco had another chance to break the deadlock in the 34th minute but skipper Radamel Falcao could only shoot straight at Rouffier, before Khazri showed the Colombian how it should be done. Khazri timed his run perfectly to collect a superb pass from Ole Kristian Selnæs and in the same movement, swivelled towards goal and rifled a low shot into the bottom corner. Benaglio could do nothing.
Monaco pushed hard for an equaliser after the interval, with Falcao guilty of a glaring miss on 48 minutes and moments later, Rouffier was again called into action to deny Pelé at full stretch. Those misses were to prove costly, however, when Khazri doubled his tally for the evening with a superbly struck second. A mistake in midfield by Pelé gave up possession in a dangerous area. The ball was stabbed through to Khazri, whose first touch was not the best, but the Tunisian pounced upon the loose ball to lash in a low drive from outside the area.
With over half an hour remaining, there was still plenty of time for Monaco to get back into the game – but aside from another poor effort from Falcao in front of an open goal, Leonardo Jardim’s team could not muster much of a response.
The loss consolidates one of their poorest starts to a season in recent history and heaps further pressure on beleaguered coach Jardim. The glory of their title-winning season two years ago now seems like a distant memory, although it should be remembered that a host of star players – including World Cup winners Kylian Mbappé, Thomas Lemar and Benjamin Mendy, as well as Bernardo Silva, Joao Moutinho and Fabinho – have all been allowed to leave in that time.
By contrast, Saint-Étienne are enjoying a very bright start to the season and have claimed 15 points from their opening eight fixtures. They initially rose to second position after their victory, though wins on Sunday for Lille and Montpelier saw both teams overhaul them.