Monaco are a footing into the quarter-finals of the Uefa Champions League as Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco’s late strike ended a cruel night for Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday.
Second half substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain offered the Londoners a lifeline in injury time after Geoffrey Kondogbia and Dimitar Berbatov had placed Monaco in comfortable lead, but the Gunners conceded possession cheaply to allow Ferreira-Carrasco to grab a third goal enough to send Monaco into the last 8 for the first time since 2003/04.
Arsene Wenger’s men now need to score three goals at the principality club in the return leg in three weeks’ time to stand a chance of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010. The concern is that Monaco have not conceded three goals at home in a single game all season and no team has ever advanced after a two goal first leg home deficit.
However, Arsenal were undone by their ambitions- pressing down the middle but with little or no variation to their attacking formation- while Monaco waited solidly in the defence to gnaw at their fragile back on the counter.
Monaco arrived in north London with an impeccable defensive record which had seen them concede just three goals in their last 17 matches, including one in the group stages- where, despite scoring the least numbers of goals among all teams in the knockout phase, they topped their pool. And Leonardo Jardim’s men turned their philosophy up a notch on a poor Arsenal backline, which proved inadequate at containing the visitors’ rampant attack.
Arsene Wenger’s men saw most of the ball, but had lesser plans for them while Kondogbia and Berbatov came up with two breakaway goals to silence the home crowd.
Arsenal started the match on the front foot with Danny Welbeck turning Elderson Echiejile after just two minutes, but shot over the bar from a tricky angle.
Monaco started showcasing the reason’s they’ve been adjudged best Ligue 1 side on the road this season by closing down space in the middle of the park, as Olivier Giroud could only head wide from a corner.
The visitors broke the deadlock in the 38th minute after Welbeck lost possession inside the Arsenal half and Joao Moutinho squared for the unmarked Kondogbia, who released a shot from 25 yards into the back of the net via a slight deflection off Per Mertesacker.
Arsenal began the second period again with positivity, but Giroud could only place his shot wide from an Alexis Sanchez cut-back.
Wenger’s team’s tardy approach to attack and defence cost them for a second time when Mertesacker got lost in the thick of their forward play, leaving Anthony Martial with space to feed Berbatov, who fired into the top corner.
Any chance for an immediate response was averted by Danijel Subasic, who parried Sanchez’s shot and Giroud flashed the rebound wide, with the goal gaping.
Wenger introduced Theo Walcott in a bid to carve open the disciplined Monaco defence, and Sanchez nearly set up Arsenal’s first of the night, but Subasic kept out the English winger’s effort and Welbeck’s follow-up.
Another substitute, Oxlade-Chamberlain, took matters into his own hands and pulled one back for the hosts a minute into added time, smashing home from the edge of the area.
Every thought of a late rally immediately vanished into thin air as the goalscorer lost possession on the halfway line and Belgian winger Ferreira-Carrasco raced through to emphatically bury the ball into the corner.