Football: Monaco’s season back on-track after thrilling victory over local rivals Nice

AS Monaco earned a crucial and sweet victory over bitter rivals OGC Nice (3-2), which not only lifts Les Monégasques back onto the podium but also relieves the pressure that had been building on manager Adi Hütter. 

Two teams, two close rivals, but two vastly differing dynamics: Monaco and Nice went into Sunday evening’s Côte d’Azur derby in contrasting form. Whilst Nice were desperately trying to cling onto runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain and are into the quarter-finals of the Coupe de France, Monaco were eliminated from the competition in surprising circumstances, losing against National 1 side Rouen in midweek, whilst a draw against Le Havre last weekend saw them drop out of the Champions League places for the first time all season.

Monaco’s fans unfurled a banner pre-match, ineloquently calling for the players to click into gear in order to save a season that has gone off the rails, however, both sets of players were greeted with an impressive pyrotechnic display as they took to the field in front of almost 25,000 fans.

Monaco fans with a pyrotechnic display ahead of the Côte d’Azur derby. Photo credit: Luke Entwistle, Monaco Life.

Nice hadn’t lost at the Allianz Riviera all season and had conceded just twice at their home fortress. Francesco Farioli’s side dominate games and dominate possession and they looked like doing so again, with Monaco struggling to get a foothold.

That changed when Denis Zakaria launched a speculative long-range effort from around 30 metres, that rifled into the top corner, leaving Marcin Bulka helpless. However, Nice showed an immediate reaction, squandering a flurry of chances. However, Thilo Kehrer handed Les Aiglons a golden chance to equalise, catching Tom Louchet in the box. Gaëtan Laborde stepped up for the penalty, sending Philipp Köhn the wrong way and levelling the scores.

Dmitry Rybolovlev once again in attendance

Farioli’s side pushed for another before the break and would have got it if not for a sharp save from Köhn after Evann Guessand had worked a one-on-one situation. Laborde could have doubled his account on the night but couldn’t find the finish in a crowded box.

Monaco, who hardly existed in the match for periods, then once again took the lead and it was Zakaria once again. The Swiss midfielder, who was imperious in the midfield, latched onto Takumi Minamino’s cross to head past Bulka.

Things went from bad to worse for Nice, with Dante shown a straight red for a reckless tackle on Minamino just two minutes later. However, the game was not yet won, and there would be further twists.

10-men Nice netted an unlikely equaliser through Guessand as the Allianz Riviera erupted. Monaco were stunned; Dmitry Rybolovlev, who travelled to watch Les Monégasques lose in Rouen in midweek was once again in attendance at the Allianz Riviera, and he looked like witnessing another disappointment.

“One of the biggest victories of the season” – Hütter

However, Monaco showed character with Aleksandr Golovin netting what was ultimately the winner just moments later. Monaco withstood a late wave of pressure from Nice, who were pushed on by their home fans to secure a crucial win, which lifts them to third, and just one point behind second-placed Nice.

“It is one of the biggest victories, why? Because we were under pressure. If you lose it, you’re seven points behind. In this situation, under pressure, in a derby, it is one of the biggest victories of the season,” reacted Hütter post-match. 

The Austrian manager, who celebrated his birthday on Sunday, thanked his team for the “gift” of a victory, which not only eases the pressure on him and his squad but also gets the Principality club moving back in the right direction. Should Nice fail to beat Lyon next weekend, Monaco could retake second place when they face Toulouse at home on Sunday.


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Photo source: AS Monaco