Football: Monaco end barren home run with win against Rennes

Akliouche celebrate giving Monaco a 1-0 lead against Rennes.

AS Monaco earned their first victory at the Stade Louis II since 3rd December 2023, beating Rennes 1-0 in a tense affair that nonetheless allows Adi Hütter’s side to retake their place on the podium in Ligue 1.

Pre-match, Hütter said that he preferred an exciting 5-2 to a boring 1-0. This was something of a hybrid. Looking to further their Champions League ambitions while ending Rennes’ own ambitions to play in the most coveted competition in club football, Les Monégasques were quick out of the blocks.

Youssouf Fofana really ought to have given the Principality club an early advantage, but unpressured on the penalty spot, the France international lacked composure, blazing over. However, Monaco had the keys to unlock this defence and they did so on numerous occasions in the first half.

Wissam Ben Yedder had a golden chance, but like Fofana, with the goal gaping, he couldn’t direct his effort on target. Monaco, however, were not deterred, but their ambition going forward left spaces at the back. Amine Gouiri had a notable chance that was smothered before the Hollywood save from Radoslaw Majecki, which saw him palm Martin Terrier’s volleyed effort onto the bar.

Monaco’s “Golden Boy”

With every passing game, the Polish goalkeeper continues to justify Hütter’s decision to drop Philipp Köhn, who had failed to fully convince as No.1. Those saves would prove decisive too.

Mid-way through the first half, a good interchange between Ismail Jakobs and Takumi Minamino saw the latter steal in behind the Rennes defence. The German then had the composure to pick out Maghnes Akliouche, who got his seventh goal of the season. “He’s the golden boy today,” joked Hütter post-match.

Monaco continued to push to increase their advantage and give themselves breathing room, however, a mixture of profligacy and good goalkeeping – in both boxes – kept the score at just 1-0 going into the break.

Contentious refereeing decisions split opinion

A clumsy and rash challenge from Martin Terrier, just seconds into the second half rightfully earned a red card, giving Monaco the perfect chance to break their duck at home. However, the Principality club failed to create chances and 20 minutes later, they too were reduced to 10 men with Thilo Kehrer sent off for a second yellow.

Both sides largely neutralised each other before the contentious moment of the match. Guéla Doué broke into the Monaco box, drawing a challenge from Fofana. “There was a clear foul,” reacted Rennes manager Julien Stéphan post-match. Importantly, referee Stéphanie Frappart did not agree, despite being sent to the VAR screen to closer inspect the incident.

As the full-time whistle approached, Monaco’s poor record at home began to play in the minds of players. “It was in our heads because we really wanted to get the win today at home. It’s our first one here this year and the job is done,” said Akliouche post-match.

There was both joy and relief when the final whistle went at the end of eight excruciating and tense minutes of added time. The result not only gets a proverbial monkey off Monaco’s back, but it also strikes a significant blow in the Champions League race. Rennes are now 13 points adrift of Monaco and with just six games remaining, their hopes of qualifying for the competition are dwindling.

A “decisive” month for Monaco’s Champions League hopes

Les Monégasques meanwhile retake their third place in Ligue 1, overtaking Lille and increasing the gap to fifth-placed OGC Nice to eight points. It’s a considerable step.

“It is important that we won this game. We have it in our hands. Lille and Brest have it in their hands too. It is really close. I don’t know if this game is decisive, but these coming up are really important,” said Hütter, whose side face the two direct rivals for the Champions League places this month. The race for Europe is hotting up and going into what has been termed “the final sprint”, Monaco are well placed.

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Photo source: AS Monaco