AS Monaco secured their safe passage into the Round of 16 by defeating Real Sociedad 2-1 in their penultimate Europa League group game.
With Prince Albert II present for this clash between two quality teams alongside Ekaterina Sartori Rybolovleva, Juan Sartori and Oleg Petrov, they were certainly treated to an entertaining evening of action.
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Up against an exceptional La Real team, who are currently second in La Liga, first half goals from Kevin Volland and Youssuf Fofana were enough for Monaco to claim a vital victory at the Stade Louis II.
Although they were made to work hard in the second half especially to claim the win, Niko Kovac was delighted with his side’s efforts. “When we started this Europa League campaign, I said it was a Champions League group. So you can imagine my pride tonight,” he said.
“We have played five games and won three, so I can only be happy with our performance in this competition. We will now be able to focus on Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France. I told the players that if we won we would finish first, so the job is done tonight.
“Today I am proud and happy with the face shown by my players.”
Despite Real Sociedad dominating possession (61% to 39%), Monaco proved their worth in other areas, with the home team ahead in Expected Goals (2.34 to 1.04), chances created (10 to 9), successful tackles (22 to 9) and aerial duels (20 to 19).
Fofana’s eventful evening
Needing to step up in the absence of Aurelien Tchouameni, Fofana did just that. Aside from scoring a crucial goal, his disruptive work was so important in midfield to limit the effectiveness of their technically gifted opponents. Reading the play coherently to break up attacks, strong in the challenge, physically imposing and on hand to help his colleagues, Fofana put in a tremendous shift.
Even though his night was soured by a late red card, the fact he won seven of his eight duels, completed three dribbles, made three tackles and chimed in with 10 ball recoveries illustrated his outstanding efforts.
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Up next for Les Rouge et Blanc is another must win clash against Strasbourg, who they are level on points with in the table.
Filled with confidence from this win that ensured their qualification from the group, Monaco will be desperate to carry their positive momentum into this crunch game.