AS Monaco kicked off the new Ligue 1 season in style with a crucial 2-1 victory over an excellent Strasbourg side away from home.
Deploying his team in a base 4-2-3-1, Philippe Clement’s men raced out of the blocks to stamp their authority on the contest with their crisp possession game and coordinated pressing.
With both teams enjoying some promising chances as the half wore on, it was Krepin Diatta who opened the scoring for Les Monegasques with a smashing 43rd minute volley from the edge of the box.
Coming out meaning business in the second half, Diatta almost immediately doubled Monaco’s lead only for Matz Sels to deny him with a smart stop. They wouldn’t have to wait long, though, for just five minutes later Sofiane Diop found the back of the net after some neat interplay with Gelson Martins to give them a two goal cushion.
Against the run of play, Strasbourg halved the deficit courtesy of a Habib Diallo header in the 65th minute. The home team then continued to search for a leveller, as Strasbourg pushed hard in the closing stages of the match. Just when Julien Stephan’s team thought they’d snatched a draw, Diallo’s stoppage time goal was chalked off by VAR for offside, thus ensuring Monaco took home all three points.
Clement cut a delighted figure after the win, praising his team’s efforts against one of the toughest outfits to overcome in Ligue 1. “Even with a full team, it’s hard to win here. They are a good team with a good coach. But my players were ready and that’s important,” he explained.
“We started the preparation early precisely to be run in this way. Several players scored points during this game and it’s perfect for the next few weeks and months. We have to be a lot more than eleven or fourteen players, that’s also how we’re going to win big games. In the Champions League, like in Ligue 1, we have to be competitive, but the players showed good things today.
“I am very happy because if we had lost two points today, it would have been tough. I’m happy for my players that we managed to keep the score and take the three points. It was important to start the championship well. It’s a marathon, but given our calendar at the start of the season, we have to start with a sprint. So it’s very important to have won here, in Strasbourg.”
By the numbers
Despite Strasbourg shading possession (53% to 47%), the fact Monaco held the ascendancy in terms of shots (24 to 11), expected goals (2.20 to 0.81), shots on target (11 to 7), shots inside the box (17 to 7) and passes in the opposition half (209 to 136) demonstrated their immense threat going forward especially.
Having endured so many injury struggles throughout his time with Monaco, it was great to see Diatta back in the starting lineup and showcasing his quality. Aside from his sensational strike to give Monaco the lead, his four shots, three chances created, 95% passing accuracy, two fouls drawn and four successful defensive actions further underlined his fine body of work.
Monaco will now quickly turn their attention to the second leg of their Champions League qualification tie with PSV, where they’ll be hoping carry their positive momentum and replicate many aspects of this accomplished triumph vs. Strasbourg when they head to Eindhoven.