Despite securing a podium finish to ensure their place in the 2022/2023 Champions League, Lens’ late equaliser meant AS Monaco will now have to progress through the playoffs instead of getting direct entry, which they would’ve achieved if they’d won.
Even though they suffered a cruel blow in their final match of the season, some positives could still be extracted from this pulsating clash away from home. With this in mind, here’s three commendable performers from Monaco’s 2-2 draw vs. Lens.
Nubel shows his class
Although he’ll be disappointed with his early misstep that helped Lens open the scoring, aside from this, there was much to admire about the German’s performance.
Making a slew of excellent saves to deny a rampant Lens team, who raced out of the blocks to heap pressure on Les Monegasques, Alexander Nubel proved why he’s an elite shot stopper.
Remaining alert to danger and powerfully positioned on the balls of his feet to move explosively to get down, across, up or a combination of two at once, he did a fine job repelling many a shot. In addition, his razor sharp reactions and typically sound positioning helped him pose a formidable obstacle in goal for Lens to face off with.
On a night where he made a whopping nine total saves and two reflex stops, there was no doubting how important he was in keeping Monaco in the game against a Lens team that unleashed a hefty 28 shots.
Aguilar’s battling qualities on full display
The always dependable, reliable and consistent Ruben Aguilar yet again illustrated his worth by putting in another solid shift against Les Sang et Or.
Defending with customary diligence and tenacity, not only did he track runners smartly, get touchtight when his opponent dropped deep with their back to goal, supported colleagues and managed rotating players, but he also excelled in his 1v1 duels and battles of strength.
Maintaining his focus and concentration to read situations adeptly against a rampaging Lens, he certainly deserved credit for holding his own while demonstrating how vital his leadership qualities are in helping his fellow stoppers.
While he was valiant in his defensive output, it was also notable how he picked his moments when to surge forward to join in attacks, form 3v2s in build up and passed the ball coherently.
By the numbers, his 14 interceptions, 12 ball recoveries, nine duels won, six clearances and 27 completed passes (from 30 attempted) underlined his immense contribution.
When asked his opinion on the rugged Aguilar, Philippe Clement was full of praise for what the diminutive warrior brings to the table. “He is a survivor with an exceptional mentality. If he has to jump over a wall to help the team, he will,” he asserted.
“He has an incredible desire to play, to run, and in training he exerts himself a lot, he always wants more. He does not play for himself or to be in the light, he plays the role he is asked to play, defensively and offensively. It’s very important to have players like that in a team. He is a real example for his teammates. He likes to do things with others, he was born to play a collective sport.”
Handed his 10th consecutive start by Clement, Aleksandr Golovin demonstrated why he’s earned the trust of the Belgian tactician during Monaco’s tremendous recent streak, for he put in another display littered with upside.
Setting up Monaco’s opener with an accurate corner into Benoit Badiashile, this depicted what an asset his precise passing was. Creative, imaginative and forever on the lookout to play teammates in behind and to pinpoint his partners in crime between the lines, he did so effectively. The way he combined smartly in close quarters with some neat layoffs and flicks drew the eye as well.
Eager to wreak havoc on the dribble too, the 25-year-old’s aptitude in this regard breathed life into Monaco’s offensive forays on many occasions. Be it outfoxing adversaries with his wicked ball control, sharp alterations in pace and direction and slick feints, opponents found him a tough man to combat. As a result of his wizardry, multiple foes were drawn to him, which crucially destabilised the Lens rearguard to open room for teammates in the final third.
So intelligent with his movement to boot, how he exploited space down the channels, occupied dangerous zones between the lines, interchanged with Caio Henrique, dropped deep to give his team control and helped generate overloads compounded issues for his opponents.
Finishing the season in style and highlighting what a weapon he is when fully fit and firing, his classy body of work, which included five dribbles, three touches inside the box and two shot assists, displayed what an integral component of Monaco’s squad he is.