During his first official French Premier League match as AS Monaco’s coach, Niko Kovac was rather nervous. Off to a precarious start at the beginning of the match, in the end his players managed a draw (2-2) against Reims. While AS Monaco still has reasons to hope, the match was marked by mistakes and uninspiring results. 

On Sunday, following a long period of training, AS Monaco finally came back to the Louis II stadium for the first Ligue 1 match of the season. The line-up was probably not at its strongest, as coach Niko Kovac is still waiting on new recruits to strengthen a team mainly made-up of younger players. Kovac set up a 4-3-3 tactic, with Aguilar-Disasi-Badiashile-Ballo-Touré for the defence, Fofana-Tchouaméni-Golovin for the midfield and Yedder-Martins-Onyekuru as strikers. Even if the  they were losing at the beginning, Kovac’s men showed character in the second half and dominated the match with nearly 75% possession. There were a few missed opportunities for AS Monaco, including a shot by Wissam Ben Yedder that hit the crossbar and Reims player Thomas Foket’s handball in the penalty area, which could have granted Monaco a penalty shot.

From a timid midfield…

The midfield made up of Axel Disasi (22) and Benoît Badiashile (19) had a tricky first half, characterised by mistakes which led to the two Reims goals. Disasi missed a long ball and Badiashile failed to impose himself, allowing Reims to open the score at 5”. A few minutes later, the players continued to lack presence and repeated the same mistakes, letting another Reims goal slip through (El Bilal Touré, 21”).

…to a midfield on the ball!

Perhaps a little shaken by his first outing with AS Monaco against his former Reims teammates, Disasi got back on track at the very end of the first half with a header that gave AS Monaco its first goal (1-2, 45” +2). The goal was scored on a corner-kick by Golovin and the ball deviated by Tchouameni, allowing the former Reims player to score. In the second half, it was Badiashile’s turn to shine: the 19-year-old scored following a free-kick by Golovin. Two goals that made us forget the mistakes of the first half.

Golovin-Ben Yedder: a promising duo

Playing a decisive role in Badiashile’s goal, Golovin showed once again how fundamental he is to the Principality’s team. Even if striker Ben Yedder found himself rather on his own, the two players formed a pair capable of destabilising the Reims defence, which last season was crowned the best of Ligue 1. Their technique proved to be significantly above average, confirming Golovin-Yedder as a duo to be reckoned with. Yedder – last year’s Ligue 1 joint best striker (18 goals) – nearly scored in the first half, but his shot was pushed back by Rajkovic.

Fofana is ever-present as Lecomte gives a reassuring performance

Lecomte saved his teammates when he prevented a shot from El Bilal Touré which could have easily given Reims the upper hand. As for Fofana, his performance made him the talk of the game. Showing remarkable precision in his passes, the former Strasbourg player was the master of the midfield along with Golovin.

Niko Kovac stays optimistic

Niko Kovac remained hopeful during the press conference that followed the game: “I must admit that I was surprised and shocked because after two goals by the opponents we were down 2-0. It really was not easy, but in the end I’m happy and proud because the reaction from my team has been very good. We showed that nothing is ever finished after 20 minutes, and we had character,” he said. He told journalists that the team would strive to improve their technique and that he was optimistic about the 2020-21 season. Despite a tentative start, things are looking up for AS Monaco.