Niko Kovac: "We must stay the course"
The first home match of the season’s second half was a win for AS Monaco against OM (3-1), after a nice reaction in the second half. Behind 1-0 at halftime, the Rouge et Blanc turned the game around in the second half, punctuated by three goals from set pieces. AS Monaco now remains undefeated over their last six Ligue 1 games with five wins in that stretch, this one being their fourth in a row. It’s a series that allows Aleksandr Golovin, (again decisive with two assists tonight) and his teammates, to edge a little closer to the podium. Niko Kovac was obviously delighted with the strength of character shown once again by his players, and said as much at the post-match press conference.
Good evening Niko. What is your analysis of the match?
I definitely wanted to congratulate my players on the victory, especially against a team of this quality, one of the best in the league. Even though we didn’t start the game the way I wanted; we weren’t in it. So we conceded that goal, which was avoidable. But after 20/25 minutes of play, it was not the same — from then on we dominated the match. We deserved this victory, in my opinion.
Aleksandr Golovin was again decisive…
Like I said, I found that we didn’t have enough technical control during the first few minutes. It was better after half an hour. Ruben did a good job but we needed some creative impetus. So I made the decision to bring on Golo at half-time. He is coming back step by step after his injury, and played 45 minutes tonight. I’m obviously very happy with his performance.
Can he start a match now?
Ruben is suspended against Nantes, so we will have to find a solution in that role. We are preparing the return of Aleksandr little by little, he must take it slow. But it can be a good opportunity for him. We will see this week with the staff. He felt good tonight anyway, that’s what he told us in the locker room. We also have Krépin (Diatta), Kevin (Volland) and Jove (Stevan Jovetic) who can play there; we have different options. We will see.
Has the team turned a corner against the big teams?
I remember in the first half of the season against Marseille and Lille, we were close to getting results. The match was at home this time and, it changes things. It’s never easy to play this kind of team. We still have to fight, we must stay the course. Thanks to this win, we are now seven points ahead of Marseille. We will take stock at the end of the season if we are in the top places.
What did you think of Krépin Diatta’s play?
We are glad he is with us. He has scored ten goals in the Jupiler League this season. He started on the left flank because there was Florian Thauvin who is used to cutting inside on his left foot. I wanted him to work with Caio to prevent him from getting involved. When he came out he changed flanks because he is more comfortable on the right.
You’ve scored 19 set-piece goals this season, that’s a great statistic.
I said a few weeks ago that I wanted us to keep scoring from set pieces, and that’s been done tonight. I’m happy because it’s an area of play that can bring us points. We have very good shooters, as well as takers on corners, free kicks or penalties. Besides the goals, we had three big chances in the game. We deserve this victory, really.
Tell us about your exchanges with Alvaro Gonzalez.
I like him because he is a competitor. As a coach it’s the same for me, I always want to win. It’s part of the game. When the match was over, we shook hands because we are playing fairly. I appreciate it, and we shouldn’t forget that.
The pair of defensive midfielders worked well, what do you think?
I am happy, Aurélien and Youssouf did a good job defensively. The midfield is the heart of the game, it’s a key area of the pitch, I expect a lot from them. They have to play simply, there may have been too many misplaced touches tonight but it was okay nonetheless. I’m happy for Aurélien who scored for the first time in 20 matches. They are young, they still have room for improvement. They are only 22 years old, and developing a player takes time.
What positions do you see Krépin Diatta playing?
Krépin is a very successful young player. He has a lot of talent, his statistics speak for themselves. He is very fast, a good dribbler, and he can play in different positions. He is a team player, he puts in a lot of defensive and offensive effort. He was a very good signing for us. Despite his young age, he is already a Senegalese international. We had several players on our list during this transfer window, but he was at the top.