AS Monaco’s academy products were decisive in a thrilling victory against Strasbourg (4-3) on Sunday, which brings Philippe Clement’s side within three points of second place.
Marseille’s draw against Montpellier on Friday opened the door for Les Monégasques to close the gap, and they looked like comfortably taking their opportunity in the opening exchanges.
Vanderson, in for Krépin Diatta, who was struggling with a niggle, was a livewire on the right, and got a deserved goal midway through the first half. However, in the wake of the opening goal, Monaco’s intensity dropped, and they were punished by Strasbourg with two quick-fire goals.
Clement’s side’s aerial frailties were once again on show as Lebo Mothiba equalised before Guillermo Maripán headed into his own net four minutes later. Monaco went off to boos, and once back in the dressing room, Clement made the substitution that changed the course of the match.
La Diagonale shines
Edan Diop came on for Ruben Aguilar, and unlike in recent appearances, he featured in his more accustomed midfield role. Alongside Vanderson, he brought an increased attacking momentum, and within 10 minutes Monaco were level thanks to Eliesse Ben Seghir.
He made way immediately after, but Diop, another product of the club’s prestigious La Diagonale academy, scored his first professional goal just minutes later with a composed one-on-one finish.
Strasbourg had looked dangerous with long balls in behind during the first period, but that danger dissipated in the second half, and it was instead Monaco who scored the next goal in this seven-goal thriller.
Youssouf Fofana, against his former side, created a two-goal cushion with a deflected finish, which seemed to put the game to bed. It may have if Fofana didn’t get sent off just minutes later.
Strasbourg didn’t immediately profit from Monaco’s misfortune, but they did get a goal back through Habib Diallo in stoppage time to set up a nervy finish. Ultimately, Monaco held on, and move within three points of Lens and Marseille, who occupy the final two podium places.
A two-faced Monaco team
Post-match Clement lamented his side’s drop-off in intensity midway through the first half. “It was a Monaco with two faces. We began the game well first 25 minutes. We dominated and scored the first goal, we were well-organised and strong in the duels, but that dissipated, and that aggressivity dropped off,” he began.
“I was very angry at half-time because I didn’t recognise my team in the last 15 minutes, but I was very happy with their reaction. We need to stay aggressive all the time. That was the big lesson to take from this match. It is good to take lessons when you take the three points as well,” continued Clement.
Monaco finished with an average age of 23.5 years old, with Clement once again affirming that “youth is the face of the project.” With two 18-year-olds ultimately proving match winners on Sunday, youth forms part of Monaco’s present, just as much as their future. ultimately Monaco’s match winners
Photo by AS Monaco