James Rodriguez

AS Monaco: How the Principality prevailed over the Parisians

It was a nasty Sunday night at Nice for Paris Saint Germain, as they probably lost their title, and they definitely lost their heads in the 3-1 defeat, with Thiago Motta and Angel Di Maria both shown straight red cards either side of Anastasios Donis’ killer third goal.

To demonstrate how much of a meltdown it was for Unai Emery’s side: it was the first time PSG had more than one player dismissed in a match since three were given their marching orders in a meeting with Evian, way back in 2013.

Nice, who have performed above all expectations this season and have already secured Champions League football next season, were just a sideshow however, in what will probably go down as the night Monaco became champions.

Leonardo Jardim’s side lead PSG by three points with four games of the Ligue 1 season to go, but Monaco have a game in hand over the holders for the last four seasons, who have just three matches left. It will be Monaco’s first league title since 2000.

It was a big night for Monaco, probably best demonstrated by the club Twitter account posting: “Belle victorie Nice” (nice victory, Nice) with the speak-no-evil monkey Emoji at full-time, swiftly followed by the league table.

The two-and-a-half thousand people that retweeted “Belle victorie” know that Monaco have more than one hand on the trophy, and so do Monaco themselves. But how have the Principality prevailed over the Parisians? By being the most exciting team in Europe, that’s how.

A 3-1 win over Toulouse at the weekend took Monaco up to 95 league goals for the season, more than anyone else in the continent but, despite their gung-ho nature being open, they have only conceded 29 in the league, which has their defence as the third best in Ligue 1, behind PSG and Nice. A goal difference of 66 is the highest by some distance.

The biggest contributor to Monaco’s goals is a rejuvenated Radamel Falcao, who has 18, and ‘El Tigre’ finally has his bite back after two disappointing loan spells in England, with Manchester United and Chelsea, that threatened to permanently end his reputation as being one of the best strikers on the planet.

Firing Falcao is not the man who the footballing world is talking about most though. No, that honour goes to the frighteningly-talented Kylian Mbappe, who has 13 goals in 13 starts in the league, and 23 goals in 37 games in all competitions, including five in eight in the Champions League, which Monaco are in the semi finals of for the first time since 2004, when they reached the final. Mbappe only turned 18 five days before last Christmas.

It is not unfair to say that Monaco are not the sort of club that draw admirers easily. A 2014¬†‘WealthInsight’¬†and ‘Spears’¬†study found that just over 29% of its citizens is a millionaire, a higher percentage than any other city in the world. For some time the football club reflected that, with big-money fees paid for the likes of Falcao, James Rodriguez (now at Real Madrid) and Joao Moutinho.

Financial Fair Play has restricted them, however, and they now field a young side. Given that Monaco has an estimated population of just over 37,000 (2015 estimation) and their stadium, Stade Louis II, holds only 18,523, spending millions on players was unsustainable. They had to change.

Benjamin Mendy (22), Jemerson (24), Djibril Sidibe (24), Bernardo Silva (22), Fabinho (23), Tiemoue Bakayoko (22), Thomas Lemar (21) and Mbappe (18) are all starters, and that is not forgetting that Manchester United poached Anthony Martial (21) from them last summer. Their youth team got to the last 16 of the UEFA Youth League this season too, before they lost to Real Madrid.

The senior team, meanwhile are competing on all fronts – they are two games, against Juventus, away from their first Champions League final in over a decade, while they also got to the final of the French Cup, but PSG got the upper hand that time, winning 4-1.

There is something special happening in the Principality though and they could well be the next side to dominate Ligue 1, following Lyon winning it seven times on the trot from 2002 to 2008 and then PSG’s four titles in the last four seasons.

Equally as likely though, is Monaco falling away again, if Europe’s more elite clubs break this generation up over the course of this summer’s transfer window.

Should the latter happen, do not be surprised to see Les Monégasques make another comeback. All the foundations are there.

Liverpool 0-3 Real Madrid (Ronaldo ’23, Benzema ’30, ’41)

Reigning champions Real Madrid kept up their 100% start to this season’s Champions League campaign thanks to goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and a brace from Karim Benzema.

Ballon d’Or holder Ronaldo set the Galacticos on their way 23 minutes in, capping off a wonderful one-two with James Rodriguez, letting the ball bounce before beating a despairing Simon Mignolet inside the box with an accomplished finish.

Benzema doubled the visitors’ lead on the half hour mark with a looping header from Toni Kroos’ cross, leaving Mignolet stranded in the Liverpool goal once again.

The French forward netted his second of the tie four minutes before the break when he bundled in a badly defended corner. Pepe scrambled the set piece into the path of the 27-year-old to end the contest before half time.

Phillipe Coutinho came closest for the hosts with a rasping drive in the first half that rattled the post but did not find the net to the relief of the under fire Goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

Ronaldo, the ex Manchester United star who scored his first ever goal at the home of their arch rivals tonight, was keen to silence the boo boys during the 90 minutes but could not add to his tally, shooting wide on one occasion and was denied by Mignolet on a few occasions.

He was replaced later on in the second half by Sami Khedira with Carlo Ancelotti clearly having one eye on Saturday’s¬†El Clasico¬†which promises to be an exciting occasion on Saturday evening.

Liverpool: Mignolet, Johnson, Lovren, Skrtel, Moreno, Gerrard, Allen, Henderson (Can ’67), Coutinho (Markovic ’67), Sterling, Balotelli (Lallana ’45)

Subs not used: Jones, Toure, Manquillo, Lambert

Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Varane, Pepe, Marcelo (Nacho ’85), Kroos (Illaramendi ’82), Modric, Ronaldo (Khedira ’65), Isco, James, Benzema

Subs not used: Navas, Carvajal, Medran, Hernandez

UEFA Super Cup report: Real Madrid 2-0 Sevilla

Real Madrid carried on their success in Europe by overcoming La Liga rivals Sevilla 2-0 in the UEFA Super Cup with Cristiano Ronaldo providing both the goals.

Homecoming hero Gareth Bale played the full 90 minutes at the Cardiff City stadium and provided the assist for the game’s first goal.

Fans in Cardiff were also treated to the debuts of the latest Real Madrid Galacticos Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez.

Ronaldo opened the scoring when he turned in Bale’s cross with half an hour played at the Cardiff City stadium.

Ballon d’Or holder Ronaldo doubled Madrid’s lead and his tally for the night four minutes into the second half after being played in by Karim Benzema, taking one touch and firing a shot that was too hot for Beto to handle from just inside the box.

Numero Uno: Bale returned to his home city but Ronaldo was the centre of attention.

Numero Uno: Bale returned to his home city but Ronaldo was the centre of attention

Scorer almost turned provider on the 64 minute mark when Ronaldo teed up Benzema but the French forward saw his shot saved by Beto.

James Rodriguez almost had the dream introduction to life at Madrid but his teed up volley was wonderfully saved and out for a corner which came to nothing.

Sevilla were largely outplayed by their Spanish counterparts but did create some sniffs of goal themselves, Vitolo being the first to trouble the Madrid goal but the midfielder had his shot from a tight angle palmed away by Iker Casillas.

Casillas was keen to restore his reputation as much as possible following a dreadful World Cup and was equal to Daniel Carrico’s effort ten minutes before the break following a defensive mix up.

Substitute Diogo Figueiras came closest late on though when his volley whistled wide of Casillas’ post.

Bale was denied the goal he would have wanted on his return to his native Wales but his shot, the last kick of the same, was theatrically kept out by Beto.

Real Madrid:¬†Casillas, Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao (Marcelo ’84), Kroos, Modric (Illarramendi ’86), James (Isco ’72), Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema

Subs not used: Navas, Varane, Arbeloa, Di Maria

Sevilla:¬†Beto, Fazio, Navarro, Pareja, Coke (Figueiras ’84), Krychowiak, Carrico, Su√°rez (Reyes ’79), Vitolo, Parreu (Aspas ’66), Bacca

Subs not used: Barbosa, Samerio, Iborra, Luismi

Man of the match: Cristiano Ronaldo

Colombia 2-1 Ivory Coast: Clinical Colombians cast aside Cote d’Ivorie

Colombia continued their 100% record in the 2014 World Cup with a 2-1 win over Ivory Coast. Goals from James Rodriguez ¬†and Juan Fernando Quintero made Gervinho’s goal in reply only mere consolation.

Tricolor¬†were slow to get out of gear but found full throttle after 64 minutes when Rodriguez headed in from¬†Juan Guillermo Cuadrado’s corner.

Substitute Quintero doubled the lead six minutes later when Colombia accelerated on the counter attack. Teofilo Gutierrez had options left and right and opted right to Quintero who sealed the win.

Gervinho hit back soon after, just three minutes after the game looked dead and buried when he cleverly jinked past two Colombian defenders and then beat David Ospina at his near post.

Party time: Juan Quintero settles the tie and the celebration of the tournament ensues.

Party time: Juan Quintero settles the tie and the celebration of the tournament ensues.

The first half was a cagey affair with the only main chance coming to Gutierrez who spooned a shot wide when he was in space – a poor miss.

Despite increased pressure the Ivory Coast couldn’t find the much needed leveler and now face a crucial match against Greece to decide their fate.

Didier Zokora will miss the game through suspension however as he picked up his second booking in two games.

Colombia meanwhile play Japan knowing just a draw will cement themselves as group winners whatever happens in Japan’s game against Greece later on today.