AS Monaco began their adventure in the Europa League by recording a crucial 1-0 victory over Red Star Belgrade away from home.
Starting the match in their 3-4-3 shape following their success over OGC Nice in the derby, Philippe Clement’s men did just enough to claim a spirited win, in what was a relatively even match filled with chances at the Marakana.
Although the likes of Mohamed Camara and Youssouf Fofana came close to breaking the deadlock in the first half, the two teams went into the interval with the scores locked at 0-0.
With Monaco conceding many chances and not finding their groove entirely going forward, the introduction of Breel Embolo proved a masterstroke by Clement. Coming up big when his team needed him, the Swiss international striker immediately stamped his mark by bagging a goal from the penalty spot to give his team the lead.
From here, with the help of Alexander Nubel’s heroics in goal, Les Monegasques held on to register a vital road win despite not being at their best.
“I think we lacked peace of mind in the first and second half to be able to make the difference in front of goal. We were too imprecise in the last gesture,” an honest Clement explained.
“There is a very big opportunity on the action of Mo Camara who finds himself in a position to strike. Unfortunately he didn’t score. We therefore lacked accuracy in some face-to-face matches, which we wanted to correct when we returned from the locker room. Especially since we knew that the public was going to push their team hard. I found us better in the transitions in the second period, but the use of the ball was still not very good this evening.
“I made substitutions at 0-0 to win, and in the end the result was favourable. In general, we did a good job defensively to maintain the advantage, although I repeat that the animation was not very satisfactory. Despite everything, we had two away games against two great teams, with a clean sheet each time at the finish. And that is positive.”
Nubel the saviour
Unquestionably Monaco’s man of the match, the German shot stopper was on top of his game to help his team triumph while keeping a deserved clean sheet. Making a total of five saves on the night, three of which were especially terrific, Nubel’s reflexes, mobility and handling was a joy to watch, on a night where he was a real difference maker.
Even though Monaco were outshot 13 to 11, some numbers of note came from how they bettered their foes in terms of possession (51% to 49%), expected goals (1.48 to 1.05), passes in the opposition half (200 to 142), tackles won (10 to 5), clearances (20 to 13) and aerial duels won (14 to 11).
Next up for Monaco is another colossal clash, this time against Lyon, where they’ll be hoping to extend their two game winning streak to three by toppling the fourth placed Les Gones at the Stade Louis II.