La Beaujoire has not always been a happy hunting ground for AS Monaco, but tonight it was the setting for a revival, as the Red & Whites got their season up and running with a confidence-boosting victory.
The game started cagily, as the two sides spent the opening twenty minutes feeling each other out. Despite dominating possession, Monaco failed to ask any real questions of the Nantes defence, while the home side were penned in the own half and their centre-forward Bammou barely touched the ball. The only semblance of a threat from the Canaries came from a cross by Cissokho in the 15th minute, but Fabinho dealt with the danger.
Nantes gradually gained in confidence and began making forays toward the Monaco goal. On 24 minutes, Bammou seized on a fortunate rebound off Raggi and suddenly found himself one-on-one with Subasic. The Croatian ‘keeper was forced to come out to meet the threat but was adjudged to have brought down the Nantes striker, the referee pointing to the penalty spot and producing a yellow card. Gakpé stepped up, but Subasic redeemed himself with a fine stop. In the aftermath, Gakpé missed a great chance to make amends for the penalty miss as he failed to convert Veretout’s cross, prompting sighs of relief on the Monaco bench.
The narrow escape seemed to galvanize AS Monaco, who promptly carved out their first clear chance of the game through Falcao, but his header from Kurzawa’s cross sailed well over the bar. Later on, the two would repeat the same move with more success...
In the 36th minute, Nantes went close again through Gakpé’s free kick, but Danijele Subasic showed good hands to hold on to the shot.
The match burst into life in the dying moments of the first half, as Kurzawa produced the perfect cross from the left for Radamel Falcao to place a pinpoint header inside the far post. You don’t save those. The striker’s celebration was a measure of his delight at getting his first start in the league after so many months out injured.
The second period started at a high tempo. In the 47th minute, Valère Germain outpaced the Nantes back line, his ball coming back off Djilobodji and finding its way to the feet of Ocampos. The Argentine showed no hesitation, slamming in a shot that was well parried by Dupé. Monaco could suddenly scent a second. Nantes responded, however, Veigneau providing a cross for Bedoya to power a header towards goal from the penalty spot, but Subasic was well positioned and stopped the ball on the line.
Despite that scare, the visitors controlled proceedings for a period, drawing on all the experience of Toulalan and Carvalho who were a constantly reassuring presence all night.
After 70 minutes, AS Monaco had clocked up 465 passes to FC Nantes’ 291, and the visitors had seen far more of the ball, with 62% possession.
It took until the last ten minutes for Nantes to mount a concerted fightback. On 80 minutes, Bammou picked up a pull-back in the area, but screwed his shot wide for a goal kick. In the 85th minute, Hansen rattled the bar with a close-range volley, and on 89 minutes Djilobodji and Hansen both had efforts blocked in quick succession. The next attack saw Aristeguieta try his luck unsuccessfully, and then in the 90th minute, Subasic produced a wonderful reaction save to tip over Shechter’s bullet header. The match went right down to the wire, with Bessat inches away from reaching Cissohko’s low cross across the six-yard box deep into stoppage time. That proved to be the last action of the game. Despite coming under severe pressure, AS Monaco produced a gutsy team performance to defend their slender lead.
The priority tonight was to win. AS Monaco did that and more, coming through a real test and showing great character. Next up, AS Monaco will host Lille at the Stade Louis-II in matchday 4. Kick-off at 17.00 on Saturday 30 August.