AS Monaco secured their passage into the next phase of the Europa League by comfortably defeating Red Star Belgrade 4-1 at the Stade Louis II.
Getting off to a dream start, Monaco raced out to an early lead within five minutes courtesy of Kevin Volland when he assuredly converted Caio Henrique’s masterful cross.
The chances then continued to flow for the home side, as Krepin Diatta, Volland and Wissam Ben Yedder came close, with the latter having a goal ruled out for offside. They didn’t have to wait long to double their advantage, though, as the German forward struck again, applying a wonderful finish on 27 minutes.
Entering the interval with a 2-0 lead, Monaco came out for the second half and were immediately put under pressure by the visitors. Philippe Clement’s men weathered the storm admirably, however, as they then extended their lead, with Aleksandr Golovin’s menacing dribble and shot forcing Milan Rodic to bundle the ball into his own net.
Just moments later, Guelor Kanga pulled one back from the penalty spot in the 54th minute to give Red Star a potential way back into the match. Wanting to kick on and make one last push, Red Star then even had a goal of their own by Aleksandar Pesic chalked off for offside.
With both teams exchanging chances thereafter, Monaco finally put the result beyond doubt when Volland completed his first hat-trick for the club with an outstanding finish after a wicked cutback from Ismail Jakobs.
Through to the knockout stages alongside group winners Ferencvaros courtesy of this crunch 4-1 victory, Monaco impressively achieved their aim of punching their ticket into the next stage, where they will face one of Barcelona, Juventus, Ajax, Sevilla, Sporting CP, Bayer Leverkusen, Shakhtar Donetsk or Red Bull Salzburg.
“The first half was probably the best since I’ve been coaching AS Monaco, with lots of chances, aggression and great collective strength,” explained the satisfied Belgian coach.
“At half time, I was afraid that the tempo would drop a little, with the youth of this group. The pace did drop a bit, but in the end the fourth goal did us good, and prevented Belgrade from coming back. I am also happy with the contribution of the substitutes, who have been very interesting. It is an evening that collectively went well.
“At 3-1, we were still under pressure. There is this goal disallowed for offside. But we held on and scored the fourth goal to validate the victory. It’s important for this young team, which had taken a beating in the last few months, to see them grow in these moments. We are now three points from the podium in the league and now qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League.”
By the numbers, Monaco’s ascendancy was accentuated by the fact they bettered their adversaries in terms of expected goals (1.22 to 1.02), total shots (16 to 7), shots on target (6 to 2), shots inside the box (10 to 3), big chances created (4 to 1), passes in the opposition half (156 to 144) and overall duels won (49 to 34).
Trip to Toulouse ahead
Up next for Monaco is a challenging trip to Toulouse, where they’ll be eager to make it three consecutive wins to end what’s been an excellent week for the team.