Champions League – Monaco battles for one point in Bruges

AS Monaco and their new coach Thierry Henry have made a small breakthrough. They earned their first point in the Champions League this season during last night’s match against FC Bruges. Though this Monegasque side is a mere shadow of the team that went to the semifinal of the competition in 2017, they did manage a tie (1-1)  in Belgium on Wednesday night.

New Coach, New Look

It’s a time of revolution for AS Monaco. Theirry Henry, searching to restore confidence to the team, brought out a formation that he became very familiar with during his time as an assistant coach for the Belgian national team.  The 3-4-3.

Generally, when a team lacks confidence, the first building block in restoring it is to shore up the defense. A solid defensive block provides a base that everyone can count on. This formation, not necessarily known for its defensive stability, did allow Les Rouges et Blancs to lean on some of their strengths. With Raggi, Jemerson, and Glik, Monaco had a very experienced core that allowed the athletic Djibril Sidbé and Nacer Chadli to offer support in attack. The 3-4-3, however, requires a team to also maintain superiority in possession, something Monaco did not achieve (60% for Bruges).

Most likely, Henry favored the formation for its counterattacking dimensions and hoped to capitalize on fewer, but better and more dangerous opportunities against a relatively slow Bruges side. Naturally, not all of the players looked entirely comfortable in their revised roles, and it remains to be seen how the team progresses under the new system. Time will tell.

The Action

AS Monaco opened the scoring in the 32nd minute of play. A lovely move by Aleksandr Golovin up the right side of the pitch drew defenders to the ball while Moussa Sylla accelerated on the backside of the central defender. Sylla reached a clever Golovin pass first and with pace. A decisive one-touch finish pushed the ball through the keeper, across goal, and into the far side netting. With the goal, Sylla (18 years and 11 months old) became the fourth youngest French goalscorer in Champions League history behind Karim Benzema (17 years, 11 months), Kylian Mbappé (18 years, 2 months) and Eliaquim Mangala (18 years, 7 months).

Minutes later, Sylla was presented with another opportunity as he beat the keeper to the ball on a through run down the center of the pitch. He was unable to capitalize from the wide angle as he narrowly missed with an off-balance effort.

The miss would prove relevant when Wesley equalized for Bruges in the 39th minute of play. A well-placed, glancing header from the penalty mark to beat Loïc Badiashile, in goal for the Monegasque team in place of Diego Benaglio (deemed unfit for action).

Group A

The tie keeps Monaco alive in the group, though just barely. As Dortmund (9 points) downed Atlético Madrid (6 points) in impressive fashion in Germany (Dortmund 4- AM 0), Monaco takes up the third position ahead of FC Bruges in their Champions League pool with three matches left to play.