Groundhog Day for AS Monaco

AS Monaco couldn’t escape their recurring Champions League heartbreak as fine margins once again consigned the Principality side to an early exit from the top tier of European competition on Tuesday.

To avoid Groundhog Day, the task was simple: repeat last season’s Europa League victory over PSV at the Philips Stadion. But just like in the film, breaking the cycle is no easy task, and Philippe Clement’s men found that out the hard way.

But unlike in Groundhog Day, there is no need for Monaco to undergo a radical transformation of the self; small changes will allow the club to fall on the right side of those ultra-fine margins, and avoid this “cruel” fate once again next year.

This treacherous route could have been avoided all together. Ignatius Ganago’s last-ditch injury time equaliser for RC Lens in the final game of the Ligue 1 season stole second place from Monaco’s grasp, and forced them to retrace last season’s steps by going through the play-offs.

Learning from last year’s heartbreak against Shakhtar Donetsk, where Monaco were dumped out of the Champions League due to a Ruben Aguilar own-goal in extra-time, the club returned early for pre-season this time around. However, possessing a fitter, more physical team wasn’t enough to see them over the line.

In a mirror image of the first leg, Monaco fell behind from a smart Joey Veerman finish in the first-half. Despite possessional and territorial dominance, Monaco lacked a cutting edge; Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s well-organised PSV side restricted Monaco to drawn-out, sterile phases of play before hitting on the break.

Clement saw the need to tweak his attacking unit at half-time and on came Breel Embolo for the largely ineffective Kevin Volland. The Swiss was a handful against Strasbourg at the weekend, and he was once again pivotal here.

His direct running and high-energy pressing reaped immediate rewards. His arrival seemed to ignite the rest of the side into action and Monaco soon found themselves level. Guillermo Maripán first struck the bar from a Caio Henrique free-kick. That narrow miss was followed by a flurry of corners in quick succession, and the pressure finally told. In a goalmouth scramble at a corner, Embolo managed to feed the ball through to Maripán, who this time made no mistake with the finish.

At 1-1, Monaco were clearly in the ascendency, and just over 10 minutes later they took the lead for the first time. Youssouf Fofana won the ball back in the midfield, and in a dynamic, direct transition à-la-Clement, Gelson Martins surged forward, feeding a sumptuous cross into the path of Wissam Ben Yedder, who finished first-time from just six yards out.

Having taken the lead, the siege on PSV’s goal abated and the Dutch side grew back into the game. The roles reversed as Monaco now reverted to playing on the break, and they could have landed a knock-out blow if not for a last-ditch Armando Obispo challenge on Embolo. Whether or not he got the ball was another matter, but VAR didn’t overturn the referee’s on-field decision.

Just seconds later and with just two minutes of regular time remaining, PSV equalised through a close-range Erick Gutiérrez header. VAR’s intervention saved Monaco late-on against Strasbourg on Saturday, but this tight offside call didn’t fall the way of the Monégasques.

The game therefore went in extra time, just as it did against Shakhtar last season. For the third time in the two-legged tie, Monaco struck the bar with an Embolo header in the opening minutes of extra-time, before history repeated itself.

Luuk de Jong landed the hammer blow with a back-post header to give PSV the lead in the second-half of extra-time. Monaco chucked players forward in a desperate attempt to save the tie, but to no avail. Monaco will once again have to settle for Europa League football this season.

The match was described as “cruel” by Axel Disasi, and as “annoying” by his manager, Clement. The Belgian added, “This match turned on details that gave the opponent the opportunity to score, but despite everything, I saw good things. We were better than PSV in both legs… we pushed until the last second to score but luck wasn’t with us in the end.”

Prior to the first leg, Clement said that he believed that Monaco were “too disappointed” by their elimination in the Champions League play-off last season, and that that negative energy spilled over into their league form. Clement said, “we can’t make that mistake a second time”. Avoiding making those same mistakes this season will give Monaco a path out of their nightmarish Groundhog Day scenario and finally give them the Champions League adventure that everyone around the club so craves. For this season, the Europa League must suffice.

Photo source: AS Monaco football club








Covid latest: Health situation stabilises in region

Covid-19 has lessened its grip on Monaco and the entire region, with weekly numbers continuing a downward slide. Here are the latest figures from the health department.

Perhaps it is the heat, maybe it’s due to people being in the open air, or it could be that it’s just good luck, but for whatever reason, the Covid virus’s presence is lessening.

Last week in Monaco, official figures from the government show that there were a mere 92 new cases reported with only 53 being followed by the Home Monitoring Centre, the agency that supports those with milder symptoms of the disease and who are asked to remain at home.

There are now 11 people, including five residents, in hospital, with two of those in intensive care.

The number of PCR or antigen tests carried out last week sat at 1,154 with a positivity rate of 18.78%. The incidence rate – the number of positive patients based on a factor of 100,000 – fell to 235, compared to 298 the previous week.

In the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur (PACA) department, the picture is similar, with 419 new cases being reported in the Alpes-Maritimes. PACA saw 11 new patients in ICU, bringing the number to 78, and 17% of them were in intensive care.

The incidence rate in Alpes-Maritimes is now 397, with a test positivity rate of 20.2%.

The overwhelming variant remains the BA4 and BA5 of the Omicron variety, accounting for nearly 91% of all new cases.



Film, fashion and finance band together for Celebrating Life

A new company creating global events and experiences uniting business, entertainment, fashion, finances, music and sport has been launched in upscale Santa Barbara, California and is asking people to rethink how these worlds can link together for a greater good.

The new company, Celebrating Life, is asking people to look at business, events and experiences in a whole new way. Based in Los Angeles and Davos, Switzerland, the company’s founders are determined to combine industries once seen as disparate for the betterment of all.

The company’s press release explains: “Award winning producer, Valentina Castellani, of Quinn Studios Entertainment, Lan Trshirky of Lan to Capital, and Gilles David from Pierre Cardin have come together to rethink business and have created a template of how to celebrate life, give back and create connection between worlds that by tradition have been always separated. Movies and entertainment are nowadays the most impactful platform to convey an idea, to change prospective, to address people, therefore Hollywood has acquired a very important space also in finances and business nowadays.  When you bring together these inventive minds, the stage is set to think out-side-the-box with no limits and execute a grand vision.”

The recent launch drew sport celebrities such as Terrell Owens, Byron Chamberlain and Angel McCoughtry, who were sat together with executives from Sony and Netflix, as well as known  producers and Hollywood actors.

Valentina Castellani and Gilles David announced a design collaboration with Terrell Owens for a new sport collection at the press conference, which caused quite a stir, as well as word that iconic fashion brand Pierre Cardin was being relaunched in the United States.

Lan Trshirky is creating a programme at Lan Space for debut at the 2023 World Economic Forum in January, uniting business and finance with entertainment, fashion and sport.

A polo match ensued, led by Francesco Mitrano, President of the Monte-Carlo Polo Federation, and was followed by a Kiki Wang fashion show and skateboarder Steve Olsen’s exhibition of his new paintings, whilst DJ DJLO rocked the house.

The company’s next big event will be in Cannes, at the Palais Bulle, also known as the Pierre Cardin Villa.

 Click on the gallery below for more images from the event…



Photos provided