Ligue 1 Uber Eats, Round 21, 11/02/24
A late Aleksandr Golovin winner handed AS Monaco a crucial and sweet victory over local rivals OGC Nice in a five-goal thriller at the Allianz Riviera.
The two rivals went into the tie in contrasting form. Whilst Nice are trying to keep pace with runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain, and in midweek progressed to the Coupe de France quarter-finals, Monaco continue to slip down the table and out of the UEFA Champions League places for the first time all season. Adi Hütter’s men suffered a shock elimination in the Coupe de France mid-week at the hands of National 1 side Rouen, and the Principality club’s fans were not too eloquent in demanding a response: “Get your asses into gear,” read a banner unfurled ahead of the match.
Hütter said he would change something, and so he did, switching to a 4-3-3, however, his players looked unused to the system, with runs not found and possession often ceded sloppy with a string of mishit passes. As they have all season, Nice dominated possession but failed to do much with it in the opening minutes.
Les Aiglons were then stunned 16 minutes in. Denis Zakaria, unpressured around 30 metres out, let fly with a rifled effort that flew past the helpless Marcin Bulka in the Nice goal. Nice had to show a response after conceding just their third goal at the Allianz Riviera all season, and they did.
After Morgan Sanson headed wide, Dante went close with an instinctive swinging boot after a deflected corner fell into his path on the six-yard line. His shot sailed over, but it was a sign of things to come, with Nice dominating possession and creating the more dangerous chances. Bar a Takumi Minamino effort from close range, that drew a good save from Bulka, it was one way traffic.
Sanson forced Köhn into a smart save low to his left and then just minutes later, Nice were level. Tom Louchet did excellent to control a cross-field pass, drive into the box and earn a penalty after falling under light contact for Thilo Kehrer. Gaëtan Laborde, who has been struggling for goals, stepped up and converted from the spot.
Le Gym continued to push and almost headed into the break in the lead, however, Köhn did well to smother Evann Guessand’s effort one-on-one, and Laborde couldn’t put home the rebound in a crowded box.
Having hardly existed in the match for large periods, Monaco stunned the Allianz Riviera into silence early in the second half, latching onto Minamino’s cross and powering a header past Bulka and into the far corner. Seconds later, things went from bad to worse for Nice, who lost their captain Dante. The Brazilian followed through on a sliding tackle and caught Minamino halfway up the shin with his studs. The referee was sent to consult the VAR and a red card was brandished.
Things quickly went from bad to worse for Nice, but they would get better. Monaco failed to make their numerical advantage count and Nice stunned Les Monégasques when Evann Guessand stunned the away side, rising highest at a corner to send a looping header past Köhn.
But they weren’t level for long. Monaco once again went ahead thanks to Aleksandr Golovin, who finished emphatically after Ismail Jakobs’ initial effort was well saved by Bulka. Monaco then had two glorious opportunities to put the game to bed, the first one falling to Mohamed Camara, and the second to Folarin Balogun. The USMNT striker is short on confidence and his open net miss from three yards out won’t do anything to help him rediscover his goalscoring touch.
Despite a wave of late pressure from Nice, with Bulka a permanent presence in the Monégasque box with successive corners flying in. However, Monaco held on to inflict Nice’s first defeat at the Allianz Riviera all season. Les Aiglons remain in second, but their local rivals are just one point behind now in third.
Nice player ratings
Marcin Bulka – 6
Melvin Bard – 4
Dante – 3
Perhaps Dante’s worst performance of the season. The captain uncharacteristically won just one of his four ground duels and was profligate in possession, losing the ball on six occasions. The red card for his tackle on Minamino was perhaps harsh, but it was certainly clumsy, and it gave the referee a decision to make.
Jean-Clair Todibo – 6
Jordan Lotomba – 4
Hicham Boudaoui – 6
Youssouf Ndayishimiye – 5
Morgan Sanson – 4
Tom Louchet – 6
The young midfielder was a surprise starter having recently shown promise in cup matches. Whilst he was kept quiet for long periods, he was tidy in possession. His brilliant first touch and drive into the box earned Nice their penalty.
Evann Guessand – 6
Gaëtan Laborde – 6
Monaco player ratings
Philipp Köhn – 7
The Swiss goalkeeper couldn’t do anything about Laborde’s penalty having been sent the wrong way, but he did nonetheless have an influential performance, making a couple of key saves, notably from Sanson and then even more importantly, Guessand, in the first half.
Ismail Jakobs – 4
Mohamed Salisu – 5
Guillermo Maripán – 6
Thilo Kehrer – 4
Mohamed Camara – 4
Denis Zakaria – 8
A game changer. Hütter needed his players to stand up and Zakaria, who has worked with the Austrian at Young Boys, Borussia Mönchengladbach and now at Monaco stood tallest, scoring twice and running the midfield. Whilst those alongside him, Camara and Fofana, were clumsy and sometimes bypassed, Zakaria was clean, metronomic and disruptive.
Youssouf Fofana – 5
Aleksandr Golovin – 5
Wissam Ben Yedder – 4
Takumi Minamino – 5
GFFN | Luke Entwistle