AS Monaco lost their first Ligue 1 match of the season by falling to an excellent Lens 4-1 at the Stade Louis II under the eyes of Prince Albert II.
Up against one of the most challenging teams to face off with in Ligue 1, Les Monegasques got off to a terrible start by going behind to a seventh minute goal from Lois Openda.
Having gotten off on the wrong foot, the home side subsequently struggled to get back into the game, with them unable to find their attacking groove despite starting with a forward line featuring Wissam Ben Yedder, Breel Embolo, Takumi Minamino and Krepin Diatta.
Even though Monaco threatened from set pieces, it was Lens who still posed the most danger, with Les Sang et Or ultimately doubling their lead through Deiver Machado on 38 minutes.
Monaco then crucially pulled one back just before half time when Caio Henrique’s superb corner kick was headed home by Benoit Badiashile to give them hope they could produce a comeback in the second half. But it wasn’t to be, as Lens restored their two goal advantage in the 55th minute after Seko Fofana coolly slotted his penalty.
Although Monaco kept pushing to get back into the game and created a host of opportunities in the wake of Fofana’s goal, Vanderson’s 72nd minute red card dashed any chances they had of reducing the deficit.
Forced to finish the game with 10 men, Lens duly added to their pain by scoring a fourth through Wesley Said, as the game finished 4-1. A result that ended Monaco’s 12 match unbeaten streak in the league.
“I think that despite the score, we were not in constant danger during this match. For me the score of 1-4 does not reflect the match itself. I’m trying to be objective, that’s also my role. Even though we had more clean chances, we weren’t effective either offensively or defensively. Being behind after seven minutes also unfortunately allowed Lens to put their game in place. I think we could have scored more than one goal and tonight it could have ended in 3-3. But it is certain that we must and can play better than today,” lamented a frustrated Philippe Clement.
“To beat any team, it is not enough to have possession of the ball, it also means winning duels. Tonight we weren’t good in our duels, the players have to keep that in mind. On the other hand, I am convinced that after a series of twelve games without defeat, all the good things are not lost! We will therefore continue to capitalise on what has been done well this evening, but also in the previous weeks. We need to be compact, united, and quick in the transitions. You know, in 38 rounds there are always surprises, but you have to react in the right way. And that requires a good performance next week in Paris.”
Even though Monaco had more big chances (5 to 3), completed more passes in the opposition half (176 to 168) and won more duels overall (46 to 38), the fact Lens held the ascendancy in terms of possession (55% to 45%), total shots (14 to 12), shots inside the box (12 to 7) and expected goals (2.25 to 1.44) demonstrated the danger Franck Haise’s outfit posed.
Camara’s solid debut
One definite positive to be extracted from the clash for Monaco was the debut of Mohamed Camara, who entered the fray at half time and put in a good shift in midfield.
Looking right at home from the off, the new signing from Red Bull Salzburg passed the ball coherently, looked lively on the dribble and made some vital defensive contributions.
By the numbers, his seven ground duels won, two tackles won, one blocked shot, 26 completed passes at 87%, two successful dribbles and three fouls won underlined his polished body of work.
“I’m happy with him. He had no preparation and had not played a minute in an official match for several months. His entry was very promising but with him as with everyone else, we have to keep working to get the most out of this talented squad,” explained Clement.
Up next for AS Monaco is a tantalising clash with Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc Des Princes, where Monaco will be looking to get back on track with a victory over the mighty Parisians.
Having beaten PSG 3-0 last season and won three of their last four Ligue 1 contests with Les Rouge et Bleu, Clement will be eager to remind his squad that they’ve got every chance of grabbing all three points yet again.