AS Monaco secured their second straight victory by ousting Stade Rennais 1-2 away from home in a match where they had to fight hard against the defiant Breton side.
Choosing to return to his preferred three-at-the-back system for this one, having the fit again Mohammed Salisu back in central defence was one of the keys, alongside the threat Rennes pose, to this decision. Elsewhere, it was great to see Youssouf Fofana returning to the starting line-up after an illness.
Racing out to a solid start, ASM were quick to impose themselves on proceedings by firing off two shots inside the first 10 minutes from Wilfried Singo and Salisu.
With both teams struggling to find that all-important finishing touch even though Aleksandr Golovin, Amine Gouiri, Folarin Balogun and Vanderson produced some decent attempts prior to the interval, all was still to play for in the second stanza.
Enter the second half, and Les Monegasques finally found their scoring boots, as Vanderson found the back of the net following a tidy cross by Balogun in the 51st minute.
Rennes then sprung to life after coach Julien Stephan made a host of substitutions that increased their threat just beyond the hour.
The tension began to rise, with a host of fierce duels and subsequent confrontations between the players adding to the drama. Vanderson then received his marching orders for a second yellow, thus leaving ASM to navigate the final quarter of an hour shorthanded.
But, to their credit, they held firm and even doubled their advantage courtesy of Fofana’s brilliant solo effort that included an incisive dribble to allow him to score with aplomb.
While they had a two-goal cushion, the remainder of the fixture wasn’t all plain sailing for the visitors, for Benjamin Bourigeaud halved the deficit from the penalty spot. Rennes then blasted off some dangerous efforts at the death, but ASM valiantly resisted thanks largely to Philipp Kohn’s heroics to claim the 300th victory since President Dmitry Rybolovlev took over in December of 2011.
“I am very happy with the victory. We had a good match and we came away with three points against a good team, which is the leader of its group in the Europa League and who can count on the return of its former coach. Considering the entire match, we deserve this success because we controlled the match in the first half. They only had one chance through Theate’s header,” the Austrian tactician explained.
“At 2-0, we thought it could have been easier, but we found ourselves down to 10 and conceded a penalty. We were able to count on big saves from Philipp and a save from Takumi. It’s very positive, we are satisfied.
“It’s not always a spectacle, you also have to remember the three points, that’s what we achieved this evening. We deserved this victory.”
By the numbers, the fact ASM held the ascendancy in terms of open play expected goals (0.51 to 0.34), passes in the opposition half (184 to 126), possession (54% to 46%), overall passing accuracy (83% to 78%), interceptions (17 to 13) and won aerial duels (15 to 8) showed they were good value for their victory.
Lyon On The Horizon
Propelling themselves into second on the Ligue 1 table for the time being, this triumph, which was the first time since October the team has won two in a row, is a huge boost for the club as they now look to carry their momentum to achieve another win next weekend when they take on lowly Lyon.