Monaco: Midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko’s thumping header sent Monaco through to the Champions League quarterfinals as the home side beat Manchester City 3-1 on Wednesday to progress on the away goals rule in another pulsating match between two attack-minded sides.
City fought back from 2-0 down and was momentarily in control after midfielder Leroy Sane’s 71st-minute goal. But six minutes later Bakayoko rose imperiously to meet Thomas Lemar’s curling free kick and restore the two-goal margin Monaco needed as the contest finished 6-6 on aggregate.
“If you analyze the two games, Monaco deserved to go through. I think over the two games we played better than City,” Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said. “Even in the first leg, City had a bit of luck.”
City coach Pep Guardiola lamented the fact that his side had failed to compete in the first half.
“At this level, you have to play more than 45 minutes. We only played for 45 minutes,” Guardiola said. “The gap between the first and the second halves is there. You ask me why? It’s the same question I am asking myself.”
Trailing 5-3 from the first leg of their Round of 16 match, Monaco made the perfect start. Confirming his reputation as a rising star of European football, 18-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe scored from close range in the eighth minute for his 11th goal in 11 games.
Brazilian midfielder Fabinho made it 2-0 in the 29th with a crisp shot from near the penalty spot after excellent work by left back Benjamin Mendy.
Three weeks ago, City had rallied from 3-2 down with three goals in the last 20 minutes and Pep Guardiola’s side needed another comeback on the French Riviera.
City played much better in the second half, with Sane scoring after top scorer Sergio Aguero had missed good chances.
The fleet-footed Sane was one of City’s best players in the first leg and came alive after the break, smashing the ball into the roof of the net after Danijel Subasic’s save from Raheem Sterling’s low shot fell right into his path. That gave City hope.
But it was not enough, and Monaco’s players rushed to the center circle to mob each other as the final whistle blew. Their lap of honor was richly deserved, especially considering the side’s goal tally now stands at 126 this season. “We deserve to qualify over the two games,” Bakayoko said. “We’re very proud, we deserve it.”
In the night’s other match, Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 at home to Bayer Leverkusen to advance 4-2 on aggregate. The other teams in Friday’s draw are holders Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Leicester.
Radamel Falcao, who scored twice for Monaco in the first leg, failed a late fitness test on a hip injury.
He was hardly needed on Wednesday. French striker Valere Germain took his place, linking up in a 4-3-3 flanked by Bernardo Silva and Mbappe – who tormented City’s defense with his blistering pace and trickery. There was a touch of destiny about Monaco’s win.
Monaco has been in an almost identical position before, overturning a 4-2 loss away to Real Madrid in the first leg to reach the semifinals in 2004 – the year it reached the final.
That was one of the best nights in the club’s history, and the fans wanted another one.
The compact Stade Louis II, with its capacity of 18,500, is one of the quieter stadiums in France and is rarely full – even with Monaco top of the league.
But it was this time, as fans decked in red and white chanted “Le stade avec vous” (The stadium’s with you) from the offset. Guardiola had sounded almost like a Monaco season-ticket holder on the eve of the game, speaking with gushing admiration about how he feared Monaco’s attack, and saying it was impossible to stop a team that was so prolific.
He was right.
With seven minutes played, Germain won the ball in midfield and released Mbappe, whose touch took him clean through. But in an effort to pick his spot cleanly he telegraphed his shot and goalkeeper Willy Caballero stood up well to make a fine save.
A minute later, Mbappe was celebrating. Mendy’s cross was blocked with a sliding tackle by center half John Stones, the loose ball fell to Silva and his drilled pass was tucked away. The second seemed inevitable when it came, with the impressive Lemar starting the move.
By this point, Guardiola was already pacing up and down, all gesticulation and pointed fingers, his side barely able to get into Monaco’s half, let alone shoot on target. Jardim stood perfectly still, hands behind his back like an army general watching his battle plans unfurl to perfection.
“If we wanted to qualify we had to be fresh, close them down all over the pitch and not let them get on the ball,” Jardim said. “That’s what we did.”