AS Monaco continued their scintillating winning streak by defeating last season’s champions in Lille 2-1 at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy to claim their eighth straight victory.
Getting some key players back for this clash, Philippe Clement immediately returned Aurelien Tchouameni and Vanderson to the starting lineup in place of Eliot Matazo and Sofiane Diop.
While Monaco were the team with most to play for due to Lille not being in contention for European qualification and safe from relegation, the home team actually came out strongest, getting the jump on Les Monegasques. Enjoying some good chances in the opening exchanges, the likes of Jonathan David, Gabriel Gudmundsson and Timothy Weah unleashed some promising early efforts.
After this rocky start, Monaco gradually worked their way into the match through the talents of Tchouameni, with the French international coming close on two occasions before eventually opening the scoring with a classy finish on 42 minutes.
Eager to capitalise on their advantage in the second half, Aleksandr Golovin and Benoit Badiashile came close to doubling the lead as Monaco appeared to be finding their groove. Lille quickly flipped the script, however, as substitute Angel Gomes came on and levelled the score in the 69th minute to the away team’s dismay.
Knowing a win was imperative, Tchouameni stood up for his team and blasted home a sensational long range goal 15 minutes from time to secure all three points.
This triumph now propels Monaco into second place for the time being with Marseille and Rennes yet to play, in a match where they showed plenty of character and resilience to get the job despite not being at their best.
“It was not our best match, but in my opinion it was the victory of the determination and solidarity of the whole team, because we gave everything to take these three points. We knew before the match that it would be difficult to play against this team, which has produced several great performances this season, especially at home. Lille was a revenge team, with players who wanted to show their qualities. Winning this match, in these circumstances, is therefore very important. I would also like to thank our supporters, who again came in large numbers and gave their voices throughout the meeting,” Clement asserted.
“We must keep the same spirit and the same determination. All these victories are not the result of chance, they are due to the work of the entire squad, which shows a lot of togetherness and which is in good physical shape. Of course, we prefer to be in this position than where we were several months ago, but we have to stay focused and think about the game against Brest.”
Returning to the fray following his suspension, Tchouameni demonstrated emphatically why he’s one of the most highly rated midfielders in European football by bagging a superb brace. Coming up big when his team needed him and stamping his mark on the clash with his quality on both sides of the ball, he was the difference maker Monaco needed to secure the win.
By the numbers, his 13 ball recoveries, 10 duels won, six interceptions, six accurate long balls, four won aerial duels, four shots and two successful dribbles illustrated his tremendous output.
Decisive in key moments, intelligent with his movement, technically gifted and a force to be reckoned with physically, there was no doubting he was the man of the match.
“For a coach, it’s easy to work with Aurelien because he always wants to improve,” explained Clement afterwards.
“With the whole squad, we worked a lot on finishing and shooting, so I’m very happy that he scored in this phase of the game. It’s due to the repetition in the past weeks, but also to his concentration to do things well. He also almost scored with a header, which is another aspect that we still have to work on. But Aurelien is exceptional in his desire to progress and each month he takes new steps, which promises him a great future.”
Grabbing the victory even though they struggled to hit their straps, the numbers tell the story, for Lille held the ascendancy in some key metrics such as total shots (15 to 9), shots on target (5 to 3), expected goals (1.46 to 0.40) and possession (51% to 49%).
Up next for Monaco in their penultimate Ligue 1 match of the campaign is a home fixture with Brest, where they’ll be keen to make it nine wins on the trot to keep their Champions League qualification hopes alive.