Playing their final home match of the season and desperate for victory to keep their Champions League qualification hopes alive, Wissam Ben Yedder’s heroics propelled AS Monaco to a memorable victory after they’d fallen behind 2-0 early on.
Having gotten off to a terrible start and facing a two goal deficit 24 minutes in, Monaco’s inspirational captain was an integral figure in their captivating comeback at the Stade Louis II. Stepping up when his team needed him most, the diminutive maestro got the ball rolling when he pegged one back just before half time from the penalty spot.
Coming out for the second half and fiercely determined to complete the comeback, the French international then fired home two goals within 10 minutes of the restart to not only give his team the lead but also to complete his hattrick.
Kevin Volland then sealed the deal to make the score 4-2, in what was a superb revival led by the magnificent Ben Yedder to lift Les Monegasques into second in the standings with one game remaining.
Unquestionably the man of the match, his game changing influence was definitely the catalyst for this latest triumph, which was Monaco’s ninth consecutive win, as he yet again underlined his overall quality.
Showcasing his elite finishing ability, the way he took his chances with aplomb was nothing short of impressive. Instinctive, clinical and intelligent, his poaching prowess and eye for goal saw him capitalise in lethal fashion to put Brest to the sword.
Calmly slotting his penalty to open his account with unnerving precision, his second really served as a testament to his class, where he embarked on a mazy dribble before seizing the moment to strike his perfectly executed outside of the boot finish home from the edge of the box. Combining placement, resourcefulness and finesse, Marco Bizot was left with no chance in goal for Brest.
Although his third was less striking, his quality anticipation and positioning saw him ideally placed to glance home a tidy header, which he placed and powered expertly to ensure the ball nestled into the back of the net.
Maximising his opportunities impressively, the fact he scored his treble from five shots and a total expected goals reading of just 1.49 illustrated his finishing wizardry.
Supplementing the aforementioned with his smart movement, the 31-year-old’s astute reading of the play and awareness saw him be a constant thorn in Brest’s side. Choosing his moments when to drop deep to connect play smartly, he offered his team a viable outlet to progress attacks through.
Adept at spotting when passing lanes opened up, the buzzing Ben Yedder showed fine work rate and positional sense to frequently provide teammates with an option in advantageous zones between the lines.
An important byproduct associated with his drops deep was that it drew out his marker, which created space for a teammate to exploit in the heart of the opposition defence.
The way he attracted one or more opponents would end up being a crucial aspect of his performance, with him knowing precisely where to situate himself to manufacture space for not just runners in behind but also so teammates could exploit spaces between the lines centrally. Indeed, the images below illustrate his aptitude here, where he shrewdly pins markers so his fellow attackers can either inherit possession in front of the Brest rearguard or dart in behind.
Knowing his trackers were wary of his immense threat, they were uneasy to leave him, which left them confronted with constant dilemmas on what action to take. They’d more often than not stay put, thus leaving huge openings for teammates to get on the ball. It was also worth mentioning how he’d step into offside positions to lure his markers that little bit deeper to conjure even more space for his colleagues to operate in.
“Wissam brings confidence and stability to his teammates,” aptly explained coach Philippe Clement recently. “He is very important in the construction of our game, the opponents fear him and he opens up spaces for others. He’s not a big builder, but he has really specific qualities. He reminds me a bit of Romario, with typical futsal actions, although the Brazilian was a bit more explosive.”
His runs in behind, down the channels and into the box also deserve mention, as he cleverly angled and timed his bursts to wreak havoc. Although his movement wasn’t always obliged, how he got on his bike when he recognised a teammate had the ball on their preferred foot and could spot him, in combination with how he started his runs ahead of his man so he could gain momentum and separation, underlined his nous here.
Quick to split gaps between defenders, peel off their back shoulder to expose them on their blindside, get in front of his man when deliveries were coming into the area and target the channels when the opposition pushed out, he was a menacing presence throughout.
Switching the focus to his output with the ball at his feet, and the striker did many good things here as well. To start with his dribbling, it was notable how he used his close control, slick first touch, agility and crafty changes of pace to get free from his adversaries.
Moreover, the way he used his strength and low centre of gravity to remain balanced while holding the ball up, riding challenges and withstanding pressure was terrific to see, with his second goal typifying his dribbling qualities and press resistance.
While his passing wasn’t at his absolute best level, positives could still be drawn from his tidy interplay in close quarters and through some enticing crosses he put in.
By the numbers, his 12 touches inside the area, four successful dribbles, four won duels, three accurate crosses and one shot assist punctuated his outstanding body of work.
When asked his opinion on the importance of Ben Yedder, Clement was full of praise for his star forward, even noting that he believes he’s improved as a player since he took over as manager back in January. “When I arrived, I saw in Wissam a player with a lot of specific technical qualities. I think that he has grown into a more collective player without the ball. He already had a lot of qualities with the ball, but during my period here – and I can only speak about that – he has grown, for me, without the ball,” he asserted.
“He does a lot more work now than at the beginning. He is more focused on that and consequently we are stronger as a team. With the ball he does two things really well: scoring goals and creating chances within the box. But he can also play really well between the lines and be decisive with passes. He is a very versatile player, and has become more versatile, because when I arrived, he was focused on scoring goals, but less focused on other elements of the game.”
Following his latest masterclass, Ben Yedder, who has now bagged nine goals in his last nine games, moves up to 24 league goals, sitting him just one behind Kylian Mbappe in the Ligue 1 scoring charts. Having bagged 31 in all competitions and enjoying his most prolific season as a professional, these statistics epitomise what exceptional form he’s in.
Leading from the front and so vital in his team’s quest to secure Champions League football for next season, it would be fitting if he could cap off his fine crusade in style by propelling his team to victory against Lens in Monaco’s final game of the season.