Niko Kovac: "The team changed their tune in the second half"
AS Monaco started 2021 with a big win in Brittany. The Rouge et Blanc took three points home from their trip to Lorient (2-5), played as part of Matchday 18 in Ligue 1, a result that allowed the Red and Whites to remain in the top six. At a post-match press conference, Niko Kovac logically hailed the team’s reaction after being pegged back twice.
Coach, what do you take away from this meeting today?
I would say that the first half was not easy because we did not play as I hoped. We were passive, we weren’t winning enough duels, we were making too many mistakes. We just couldn’t deliver the football we wanted. There was a great reaction in the second half, the team changed their tune. It was much better, but I’m not forgetting our first 45 minutes.
Your substitutions made the difference tonight…
In the first half, nobody was at their usual level. I had to change something for the second half. I had quality players on the bench, so I decided to make some changes. Guillermo made a good appearance — I thought Axel looked nervous, it wasn’t necessarily his day today. Willem had a good opportunity as well and he couldn’t make it happen. I wanted them to play with their foot on the ball in the second half, hence the entry of Sofiane. He brought a level of technical quality, he played well and scored.
Have you ever seen a player score after four seconds of coming into play?
Firstly, we are very happy to have Aleksandr Golovin back with us again. It’s like the arrival of a new player for us, because he had only played twice this season. To be honest, I wanted to get him on a few minutes earlier, but the fourth referee felt he needed to add a little tape to his socks for regulatory issues. In the end, he brought us luck. He came on and scored on the first ball he touched. We are very happy with his return, I’m sure he will raise the level of the team.
You’ll have to be satisfied with having scored five goals tonight…
I laughed about it in the locker room after the game. I don’t know if I’ve made such good substitution choices in my coaching career (laughs). They all contributed to the success. The entry of Golovin gave another dimension to this match, and Stevan also did some great things tonight, as did Kevin. We are very satisfied with our second half, with four goals scored.
Kevin Volland — is he not gradually becoming the technical leader of the team?
As I said before, Kevin is a very good football player. He has already proven what he is capable of in the Bundesliga. When he arrived I knew he was a very efficient striker but also worked to defend a lot. He is very skillful and prevents buildup play on the part of the opposing team. I’m very happy to have him with us, he’s a smart boy. I hope he will continue this momentum.