AS Monaco’s Groupe Élite overcame a talented Chelsea U21 side (3-2) in a thrilling, open match in front of onlooking owner Dmitry Rybolovlev.
Chelsea and Monaco have a history. The club’s first-teams faced off in a classic Champions League semi-final tie back in 2004, which Monaco won 5-3 on aggregate, whilst Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoué Bakayoko, and more recently Benoît Badiashile, are amongst the players to have featured for both sides.
Dmitry Rybolovlev, Paul Mitchell and Philippe Clement in attendance
Whilst the match between Les Monégasques’ Groupe Élite and Chelsea’s U21 side wasn’t played in front of the masses of Stamford Bridge, or under the iconic arches of the Stade Louis II, the match certainly piqued the interest of the club’s hierarchy.
Rybolovlev made a rare appearance to support Monaco’s La Diagonale, whilst first-team manager Philippe Clement was also in the stands, on the lookout for the next player to integrate into his professional squad. Sporting Director Paul Mitchell, Performance Director James Bunce, Director of Youth Development Pascal de Maesschalck as well as La Diagonale academy graduates such as Eliesse Ben Seghir and Eliot Matazo all watched on. They would have been impressed with what they saw in the first half.
Edan Diop features in strong Monaco line-up
Monaco fielded a strong starting XI, which included first-teamer Edan Diop. Players such as Yllan Okou, Yann Lienard and Soungoutou Magassa, all of whom are fixtures in first-team training featured in the fixture.
However, it was the Blues who took the lead through England U20 international Harvey Vale. Monaco looked dangerous, however, and quickly struck back through Enzo Baglieri, who latched onto a clever ball from Diop.
Lienard then got the better of Vale just minutes later, turning the Englishman’s curling effort around the post. That proved a turning point, with Monaco then unleashing a barrage on the Chelsea goal, which yielded two more goals before the break. Mamadou Coulibaly scored Monaco’s second with a fortuitous deflected effort before Baglieri got his second.
Mason Burstow halved the advantage in the second half, but Monaco held on and will face Chelsea again in a return leg in London on 2nd May.
“It’s a beautiful win. We were looking forward to this match. We really wanted to win this one, so it’s mission accomplished. We saw a bunch of boys who gave everything they had,” Groupe Élite coach Damien Perrinelle told Monaco Life.
“The complete momentum of the club is towards the development of its academy players.”
He added, “The best reward for the Groupe Élite is when Philippe Clement calls up one of our players, and when he gets minutes with the first team, or when I’m told that a player has adapted well. That’s the priority of the group.”
Whilst denying that Rybolovlev’s attendance at the match motivated the players further, given that “they’re all competitors,” Perrinelle described the presence of the club’s hierarchy as “gratifying”.
“I don’t know if the players realised that the President was here! I didn’t want to tell them so as not to put them under pressure. That proves, I think, that the complete momentum of the club is towards the development of its academy players, from the U17s to the U19s. Having Paul (Mitchell) and the President come and watch this kind of match is gratifying and highlights our work. We’re also very proud to show them, as well, what we’ve been working on all year,” he told Monaco Life.
Photo by Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life