The Monegasques qualified for UEFA Champions League quarterfinals
This past Tuesday, March 17, 2015, was the most anticipated match of the season, with Monaco receiving Arsenal, so there were not one empty seat at Stade Louis II and the ambiance was thrilling! The visiting team played a great match and were desperately fighting back after their failed match at home, but came short in spite of scoring 2 goals, the first from Olivier Giroud at 36 min and the second from Aaron Ramsey at 79 min, as Monaco had the advantage after having scored three away goals in the Emirates. The Gunners paid for their poor performance on the first leg, and they are out of the world’s top club competition while Monaco qualified for the quarterfinals. The last time that the Red & Whites had been in this same position was in the 2003-2004 season.
It is true that Arsenal had several chances to score over and above their two goals, but their shots either found the bar or Danijel Subasic, goalkeeper extraordinaire, who played a determining role. The Monegasque players attacked at times, but mostly defended relentesly with a passion until the last minute, and it worked! Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia told Bein Sports after the tough encounter: “We weren’t favorites tonight (Tuesday) but we gave everything we had and we managed to do it.” They are getting good at playing with the big boys and they are in very company among the last 8. Let’s see who they will face next. I confess I would love to have Barcelona at Stade Louis II, to see how my countryman Messi dances with the ball.
It was a tough return for Arsenal trainer Arsene Wenger who was coach of the AS Monaco during seven years (1987-1994). French Champion from his first season in the Principality in 1987-1988, winner of the French Cup in 1991, finalist of that same competition in 1989 and 1992, finalist of the Coupe des Vainqueurs de Coupe in 1992, semi-finalist of the UEFA Champions League in 1994. From 1988 to 1992 he brought the Red & Whites to the first division podium during five consecutive seasons. Arsene Wenger is an important part of the history of the Monaco club.
Leonardo Jardim on Arsene Wenger: “In the first leg, when I wanted to thank Arsène and shake his hand, it’s true that Arsène didn’t shake my hand, so even though Monaco did everything to make life comfortable for Arsenal tonight, I decided not to thank him,” Jardim said. “I think it was disrespectful. Right now, we’re celebrating and we think Arsenal did not show enough respect during the first leg.”“Arsenal were really happy to play Monaco as we were supposed to be one of the weakest teams. We qualified from pot four. All the teams in the last 16 wanted to play against Monaco. Maybe Arsenal thought they had qualified already.”
A packed stadium and celebrities galore
The well known Bein sports commentators were on the field before and after the game. Prince Albert held court in the royal box with Dmitry Ribolovlev, president of the club, surrounded by dignitaries and friends. In the tribunes there were celebrities galore among the fans in the packed Stade Louis II. I was able to take some paparazzi photos of Bono with guitarist The Edge from the U2 Irish rock band, who were on the honour tribune, and who were probably going to celebrate Saint Patrick’s after the match. I also had the chance to meet French retired footballer David Trezeguet.
The draw – Monaco among the great clubs!
The UEFA Champions League quarterfinal draws will be made in Nyon on Friday, March 20. The quarterfinal ties, involving the eight winners from the UEFA Champions League round of 16, will be determined in an open draw. At this stage of the competition, no teams are seeded and clubs from the same national association may be drawn against each other. The quarterfinals are played on a home-and-away basis, with the first legs on Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 April and the return legs a week later, on Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 April.