AS Monaco crashed out of the Europa League at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen at the end of a brutal penalty shoot-out, during which only Eliot Matazo failed to score.
Monaco headed into the second leg with a narrow advantage (3-2) after a late Axel Disasi goal in Germany last Thursday. However, that lead was squandered within minutes. Alexander Nübel let a routine cross squirm under his body and directly into the path of Florian Wirtz, who had no difficulty putting the ball into the open net.
Les Monégasques quickly worked their way back into the tie, Eliesse Ben Seghir with the neat work to win the penalty, dispatched by Wissam Ben Yedder.
However, the Ligue 1 side weren’t level for long. Exequiel Palacios latched onto a poor clearance from Malang Sarr, dispatching low to Nübel’s right, the German’s vision perhaps hindered by the bodies in the box. Amine Adli then gave the Bundesliga side an aggregate lead, heading past Nübel, who seemed glued to the spot and unable to make the short jump to make the save.
Monaco needed a goal, and it came late in the second half, substitute Breel Embolo heading past Lukas Hradecky to make the Stade Louis II erupt. Edan Diop then looked to have given Monaco the win deep in injury time, but his strike was ruled out, with the ball having already gone out of play.
The match, therefore, went to injury time. Neither side managed to create as they had in the second half, the best chance falling to former Leverkusen striker Volland, whose well-hit header was straight at the goalkeeper.
Progression would have to be decided by a nail-biting penalty shoot-out, during which Monaco made history, but not in a positive sense. Les Monégasques had never lost a penalty shoot-out in European competition. That changed against Leverkusen. Eliot Matazo was the only one to miss with Moussa Diaby landing the final blow.
“I have never been so proud of my team.”
For consecutive seasons, Monaco’s European meets a premature end, and are out of both cup competitions. The full focus is now on the league and on securing a podium place to relaunch their European ambitions.
“We have had fantastic moments during my time here, big moments, but I have never been as proud of the team as I was today. We now have to continue. We can be disappointed, and go home and break things out of disappointment, but tomorrow we also have to come back with our heads high and looking forward,” Clement told Monaco Life post-match.
Those heads will have to be raised quickly with points and pride on the line against local rivals OGC Nice on Sunday.