Monaco beat Manchester City 3-1 on Wednesday to win a wild tie on away goals.
Monaco beat Manchester City 3-1 on Wednesday to book their place in the Champions League quarterfinals. Goals from Kylian Mbappé, Fabinho and Tiemoué Bakayoko ensured that Leroy Sané’s was nothing more than a consolation for City, as the hosts bounced back from last month’s 5-3 first leg defeat at the Etihad to progress on away goals.
Monaco’s enthusiasm was in evidence from the very first whistle, and it took them just seven minutes to draw a great save from City keeper Willy Caballero. The Argentine was powerless to stop the hosts breaking the deadlock just a minute later, when City failed to convincingly clear a Monaco corner, and allowed Bernardo Silva’s low cross to be prodded home from close range by Mbappé.
City were shaken while Monaco stirred, their high pressing game causing considerable woe for Pep Guardiola’s men. Less than half-an-hour had gone when the hosts netted their second, with Benjamin Mendy’s low ball stroked beyond Caballero by the onrushing Fabinho. It was a goal of sublime simplicity, and gave Monaco the away goals advantage.
Despite suddenly having a lead to defend, Monaco became no less enterprising. Beautiful passages of play ensued as they ran rings around City’s weak midfield. At the other end of the field, veteran shot-stopper Danijel Subašić had almost nothing to do, and by the halftime whistle sounded, City had failed to register a single shot. A significant second half improvement was needed.
Such an improvement was in evidence early in the second half, with City twice going close to netting a crucial away goal. Raheem Sterling should’ve netted after being sent through on goal by Kevin De Bruyne, only for a moment’s hesitation to enable Jemerson to intercept his half-hearted square ball. Minutes later Sané pulled a dangerous ball across the area for Sergio Agüero, though he sent City’s first shot of the game high over the crossbar.
The Argentine striker soon called Subašić into action for the first time, with the Monaco keeper tipping a low shot around the post from close range. Having dominated throughout the first half, the hosts were suddenly struggling to stem the flow.
It took until the final 20 minutes, but eventually City did find a deserved breakthrough. A great ball from De Bruyne was brought down by Sterling, whose low shot was tipped into the path of Sané at the far post. The German crashed the ball into the roof of the net, and City were back ahead on aggregate. But not for long.
Monaco had spent the entirety of the second half on the back foot, but if we’ve learned one thing over the two legs, it’s that they’re much better going forward. Suddenly they were forced into searching for a third, and they found it within minutes of Sané’s strike. A cross by Thomas Lemar was met in the area by midfielder Tiemoué Bakayoko, his header leaving Caballero with no chance. Monaco were 3-1 up, and back ahead on away goals. This time, City had no riposte.
Monaco: Danijel Subašić; Benjamin Mendy, Andrea Raggi (Almamy Touré 70’), Jemerson, Djibril Sidibé; Thomas Lemar, Tiemoué Bakayoko, Fabinho, Bernardo Silva; Kylian Mbappé (João Moutinho 81’), Valère Germain (Nabil Dirar 90+1’).
Goals: Mbappé (8’), Fabinho (29’), Bakayoko (77′).
Manchester City: Willy Caballero; Gaël Clichy (Kelechi Iheanacho 84’), Aleksandar Kolarov, John Stones, Bacary Sagna; Fernandinho; Leroy Sané, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling; Sergio Agüero.
Goals: Sané (71’).
1. Monaco may be the Champions League’s most watchable side
It may be no surprise that this Monaco team plays with such joy and energy given that so many of their players are still so young. But it is testament to their quality that Monaco’s youthful exuberance belies no naïveté: : Leonardo Jardim’s side have earned the right to play with such a swashbuckling style. If they do go on to be eliminated from this tournament, their bravery should not be blamed: on this evidence, it’s their strongest attribute. It could cause some serious problems for other members of Europe’s established elite.
2. City paid for a poor first half performance
This really was a game of two halves, with Monaco dominating the first and City the second. Though they were inexplicably poor early on, Pep Guardiola’s side recovered well in the second, and created at least three clear-cut chances to score. Had they been more clinical, they’d have been comfortably through. That said, Guardiola’s inquest must surely focus on their first half display, and why they were so intimidated by a Monaco side they knew would play with such attacking gusto. It was this that ultimately cost them.
3. The Monégasques’ celebrations will be marred by one thing …
… Prince Albert wears half-and-half scarves.