Football: AS Monaco close the gap to the Ligue 1 podium

AS Monaco v FC Lorient

Goals from Krépin Diatta, Aleksandr Golovin and Kevin Volland allowed AS Monaco to collect a comfortable three points against FC Lorient (3-1), and close the gap to the podium.

After RC Lens slipped up against league leaders Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday, Les Monégasques were handed the perfect opportunity to close the gap to two points, and they didn’t pass it up.

Lorient are a dangerous side, and Monaco were reliant on an injury-time Wissam Ben Yedder equaliser in their match earlier this season to salvage a point. However, as the season draws to a close, and with Les Merlus sitting comfortably in midtable, the onus was more on Monaco to get a result and keep in the running for the Champions League places.

Diatta opened the scoring with the opening chance of the match from a Golovin cross, and the provider then turned goalscorer soon after. The Russian latching onto a ball from Ben Yedder to allow Monaco to turn on cruise control.

“At 3-0, it’s almost a perfect match.”

But whilst the Principality club have often choked in such positions this season, notably against FC Nantes last week (2-2), Lorient posed little threat. Instead, it was Monaco who increased the scoring in the second half through Volland, who was enjoying a rare start in a season blighted by injury.

Ibrahima Koné then got a late consolation from the spot after Guillermo Maripán conceded a contentious penalty. However, the goal mattered little, and Monaco successfully closed the gap. With seven games left, the chase for the Champions League is hotting up.

“Monaco were 100% focused today,” began Philippe Clement. The Belgian technician added, “At 3-0, it’s almost a perfect match. It’s a lesson for us, which proves that when we play like that, we’re a very good team, which shouldn’t be caught up, like at Nantes,” he continued.

Next up for Monaco, an enticing fixture against Lens, a direct competitor for the Ligue 1 podium.


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Photo by AS Monaco

Tennis: Andrey Rublev wins the Monte-Carlos Masters, heartbreak for Monaco’s Romain Arneodo

Andrey Rublev after winning the Monte-Carlo Masters

Andrey Rublev beat Holger Rune (5-7, 6-2, 7-5) to win his first Masters 1000 at the Monte-Carlo Masters after Romain Arneodo came within inches of becoming the first Monégasque champion at his home tournament.

It was a final that few would have predicted, but entertainment and quality weren’t in short supply at the Monte-Carlo Country Club on Sunday afternoon. After Novak Djokovic’s and Stefanos Tsitsipas’ surprise defeats, the tournament was thrust wide open.

19-year-old Rune became the youngest Monte-Carlo Masters finalist since Rafael Nadal in 2006. The Dane was looking to become the new “King of Clay,” but he was denied in an exhausting affair.

Rune was the first to break, but Rublev, the Russian player competing under a neutral flag, broke straight back. That set the tone for a tight match that went the distance. Rune broke again in the final game of the first set (7-5), to go within a set of the championship.

Photo of Andrey Rublev v Holger Rune by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life

However, Rublev hit back, breaking Rune twice to set up a deciding set (6-2). The second game of the third set epitomised the duel. The difference in quality was negligible, and Rune needed multiple opportunities to make a break that at the time felt definitive.

Whatever was thrown Rune’s way, he seemed to have the answer. Faced with a break point, he served consecutive aces before holding his service. However, there was an almost indiscernible switch of momentum, and the crowd, enthralled in the battle, urged Rublev on as he broke back.

The mental impact of ceding an advantage took a toll on Rune. His inexperience perhaps showed as he missed two simple overhead volley’s in a row, before launching two balls into the crowd out of frustration.

“Being from the country that I’m from, to have international support means a lot.”

Under the cosh, Rune then double-faulted at the end of his service game to give Rublev a chance to serve for the championship, which he didn’t pass up. It was Rublev, therefore, who prevailed to win his first Monte-Carlo Masters, the Russian sinking into the Monaco clay in ecstasy after a draining, but thrilling contest.

Photo of Andrey Rublev by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life

“I want to congratulate Holger for his amazing week. It’s tough to lose a final, but you’re so young, and you already have a Masters 1000 title, so let me win this one time,” joked Rublev in the trophy ceremony, before thanking the thousands of fans in attendance for their support.

“I just want to say a big thanks to all of you guys (the supporters), because being from the country that I’m from, to have international support means a lot,” he said.

Romain Arneodo makes Monégasue history, but title slips through fingers

Prior to Rublev’s victory, in the doubles’, Arneodo looked to conclude his incredible week with silverware. In reaching the doubles final of the Monte-Carlo Masters, Arneodo had already made history, becoming the first Monégasque to pull off the feat. However, the home crowd had little to celebrate in a first set inhalation.

Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek began the tournament by breaking Monégasque hearts by beating a team consisting of Hugo Nys. They looked like they would inflict more misery after breaking Arneodo and Tristan-Samuel Weissborn three times in the first set, winning 6-0.

Monégasque flags flying high at the MCCC by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life

Arneodo and Weissborn looked incapable of competing, but the duo kept calm and incrementally worked their way back into the match in the second set, breaking towards the end to take it 6-4.

Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly in attendance

That set up a nail-biting super tie break in the third set. Both sides squandered two championship points before the third was taken in front of the onlooking Charles Leclerc, who had been put through the emotional wringer by his compatriot’s narrow defeat (6-0, 4-6, 14-12).

Photo of Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life

“With the passing of time, I’m starting to calm down, but just after the match it was very difficult. It was very emotional. I’m struggling between the emotions of pride and disappointment,” reflected Arneodo.

“I just wanted to win today and go back home and open bottles of champagne with my friends,” he told Monaco Life. 

Arneodo’s Monte-Carlo Masters may have ended in heartbreak, but his success throughout the week will now allow him to compete in the rest of this year’s Grand Slams. For Rublev, his victory is a good omen for the rest of the clay season, which has only just begun.

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Photo by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life

Emmanuel Macron signs French pension reform into law

French President Emmanuel Macron signed his controversial pension reform into law Saturday, defying three months of protests and pleas from unions not to implement the legislation. 

The alterations became law after the text was published before dawn in France’s official journal, prompting accusations from the opposition Macron was seeking to smuggle it through in the depth of the night.

The publication came just hours after the approval on Friday by the Constitutional Council of the essence of the legislation, including the headline change of raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

Unions warned they were calling for mass Labour Day protests on 1st May, and sometimes violent demonstrations erupted in several cities overnight after the verdict was announced.

The battle to implement the law turned into the biggest domestic challenge of Macron’s second mandate, as he faced widespread popular opposition to the changes but also sliding personal popularity.

Socialist leader Olivier Faure said that Macron’s swift signing of the law showed “disdain” towards the protest movement while hard-left MP Francois Ruffin called it a “democratic hold-up”.

“A law enacted in the middle of the night, like thieves,” tweeted French Communist Party chief Fabien Roussel. “Everyone on the street 1stMay.”

‘Not defeated’

The nine-member Constitutional Council ruled in favour of key provisions of the reform, including raising the retirement age to 64 and extending the years of work required for a full pension, saying the legislation was in accordance with French law.

Six minor proposals were rejected, including forcing large companies to publish how many over-55s they employ, and the creation of a special contract for older workers.

The appearance of the text in France’s Official Journal — the gazette of record — means it has now been enacted into law.

“The Social Security Code is thus amended. In the first paragraph, the word: ‘sixty-two; is replaced by the word: ‘sixty-four’,” states the text, referring to the retirement age.

But the constitutional court’s decision could prove a shallow victory for Macron, as analysts say it has come at a major personal cost for the 45-year-old.

The president’s approval ratings are near their lowest levels ever, and many voters have been outraged by his decision to ram the pensions law through parliament without a vote, using a legal but controversial mechanism denounced by opponents as anti-democratic.

Polls consistently show that two out of three French people are against working a further two years.

Macron has called the change “necessary” to avoid annual pension deficits forecast to hit 13.5 billion euros by 2030, according to government figures.

“Stay the course. That’s my motto,” Macron said Friday as he inspected Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, four years after a devastating fire nearly destroyed the gothic monument.

Seeking to avoid triumphalism, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne tweeted that after the court verdict “there are no winners or losers”.

But the left-wing Liberation daily said in its headline above a picture of a protest: “Not defeated: opponents of the reform are not going to disarm”.

Bikes, e-scooters and garbage were set on fire in the capital overnight while protests rallying hundreds erupted in other cities, including Marseille and Toulouse.

In the western city of Rennes, protesters set fire to the entrance of a police station and a conference centre. Paris police said 112 people had been arrested as of 10:30pm

‘Tidal wave’ on May 1

Macron, who has made only the most infrequent public comments on the crisis, is expected to address the French early next week, a presidential source told AFP.

It remains to be seen if the months-long effort by trade unions to block the changes will continue after three months of strikes and protests.

Unions issued a joint statement urging Macron not to sign the legislation into law, saying the issue was “not finished”.

The general secretary of the CGT union, Sophie Binet, called for a “popular and historic tidal wave” of people on the streets to oppose the reforms on 1st May.

In a second decision on Friday, the court rejected a bid from opposition lawmakers to force a referendum on an alternative pension law that would have kept the retirement age at 62.

France lags behind most of its European neighbours, many of which have hiked the retirement age to 65 or above.

Opponents of the changes say they penalise women and unskilled workers who started their careers early and undercut the right to a long retirement.

Unions rejected an offer by Macron for talks on Tuesday, saying they would only meet after 1st May.

Last month, a strike by Paris garbage workers left the capital strewn with 10,000 tonnes of uncollected rubbish.

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Monaco Life with AFP. Photo taken from Macron’s televised speech.