Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Toulouse means that AS Monaco Women go into the second leg of their promotion play-off with everything to play for. Just one game stands between them and their objective.
The second leg of the tie, to be played in Toulouse next Sunday, couldn’t be more finely balanced. After achieving a 100% win rate in the regular season in the R1, and following a battling 3-2 win against Bourges in the semi-final, their whole season comes down to just one more 90 minute match.
Manager Stéphane Guigo said in the wake of last week’s win that his side were the “underdog” going into the tie, but Monaco didn’t live up to that tag. Instead, they proceeded to dominate large swathes of the match, and were ultimately disappointed to come away with just a draw.
Monaco should have taken the early lead early on, but fine margins denied them. Bree Fuller struck the bar in the opening 10 minutes and Laura Domecq miscued an attempted chip when through on goal.
Against the run of play, it was the former professional side Toulouse who took the lead following a slick counter-attack, which was finished by Sophie Rougé. Thereafter, what had been an open, end-to-end affair, settled into a rhythm and both sides found chances at a premium for the remainder of the half.
A youthful Monaco, however, struck back early in the second-half, as Fuller got her just rewards for her hard-work on the right wing, although she would do so in confusing circumstances. Although the offside flag was raised, the referee never blew the whistle and it was clear that the last touch came off a Toulouse boot. Les Violettes downed tools and switched off. Fuller profited by surging into the box and finishing low to the keeper’s left.
Having restored parity, Monaco searched for a second, and would get it in the 75th minute. After a goalmouth scramble which saw Domecq’s initial effort scuppered, and a rebound smashed against the post from Fuller, the ball once again fell at the feet of Domecq, who made no mistake with her second chance.
But there was to be one cruel, final twist. An innocuous Sonia Roumiga cross caught out the Monaco goalkeeper, who misjudged the flight of the ball, and the ball nestled in the far corner of the net. Neither side could find a winner in the dying stages and the game finished 2-2. Everything is still to play for in the second-leg.
Post-match Guigo reflected on his side’s frustrating profligacy, telling Monaco Life, “We lacked efficiency. We knew we’d have to convert our chances, but that is part of the game. It’s up to us to alter the tie.”
He continued, “We approached the match as we had to and had chances. Then we’re stung once, we fight back to level and then take the lead, but then we finish 2-2 from a cross; it’s a bit frustrating. Monaco and Toulouse are around the same level so it will be won on efficiency and we know that we have to go there and win.”
Given that the away goal rule is in effect in the tie, Monaco have to go there searching for a win (or a high scoring draw). Some of Monaco’s best performances this year have come under pressure, and they will have to produce one more if they are to achieve that much-coveted promotion to the D2.