In a match that was packed full of action and excitement, AS Monaco eventually ran out 3-2 winners vs. Auxerre despite going behind on the road.
Monaco knew resuming their Ligue 1 campaign against the relegation threatened Auxerre wouldn’t be an easy assignment. And so it proved, as the hosts produced a spirited, fighting display to push Les Monegasques all the way at the Stade de l’Abbe-Deschamps in what was the first meeting between the two teams in roughly 10 years.
Although Monaco started the match quite well and dominated possession in the early exchanges, they struggled to translate this onto the scoresheet. Auxerre then duly made them pay at the half hour mark when they took the lead from the penalty spot through M’Baye Niang after Lassine Sinayoko was brought down by Eliot Matazo.
Monaco then immediately responded, though, with Ismail Jakobs grazing the post with a free-kick before ultimately levelling the ledger courtesy of Wissam Ben Yedder’s assured penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Wanting to mix things up for the second stanza, Philippe Clement made three changes at the interval by bringing on Youssouf Fofana, Aleksandr Golovin and Eliesse Ben Seghir at the expense of Matazo, Takumi Minamino and Ben Yedder.
The changes paid dividends rapidly too, as Ben Seghir propelled his team into the lead on 58 minutes to mark his Ligue 1 debut in fine fashion with a clinical finish.
Disaster then struck for the away side when Fofana unfortunately diverted the ball into his own net to allow Auxerre to equalise with a little over 20 minutes on the clock.
With time running out and Monaco in need of some magic to secure all three points, Ben Seghir stepped up again to power his team to victory by finding the back of the net with a scintillating long range strike to cap off his magnificent first league outing.
“It’s important to win today, especially since we see that there is a new dynamic here in Auxerre. After the arrival of the new coach, they had four weeks to prepare for this match at home, in a full stadium. I found that there was a lot of energy and commitment in this team, which can hurt, especially with certain individuals,” explained the Belgian tactician.
“I appreciated how Auxerre played today, and we are all the more happy to win at the finish. It is important to take the three points.
“My choices at half-time were dictated by the script of the match, as I wasn’t happy with our first half. Our strength is to have unity in this group, and quality everywhere, including on the bench. There weren’t enough movements without the ball for my taste, we were too static. We were also struggling in midfield, so I decided to make some changes. After that, we dominated, even if we were unlucky on the 2-2 goal.
“But the most important thing is the reaction we got afterwards. All the players who came back gave a lot of energy to the team, they fought, and that’s our strength. It must remain so for the next few months, because we have a lot of games ahead of us. I’m very happy that we won together.”
Although Monaco scored all three goals from just three shots on target and were outshot (11 to 6), the fact they held the ascendancy in terms of possession (62% to 38%), expected goals (1.32 to 1.25) and completed passes inside the opposition half (232 to 104) underlined why they were still good value for the win.
Happy and relieved to return to action with a vital victory, that owed much to Ben Seghir’s heroics, against a plucky Auxerre, Monaco will now turn their attention to their clash with Brest at the Stade Louis II on Sunday, where they’ll be looking to ring in the New Year in style.