A win against champions Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday capped a great August for Monaco, who lead Ligue 1 as they prepare for their UEFA Champions League group stage return.
João Moutinho’s astute volley from Djibril Sidibé’s pinpoint cross and Fabinho’s 12th penalty scored from 12 attempts handed the Riviera side a healthy margin at the break.
Despite Edinson Cavani reducing the arrears and Paris pushing for a leveller, Leonardo Jardim’s team extended their lead when Sidibé put pressure on Serge Aurier who scored an own-goal, sealing a first defeat for new Paris coach Unai Emery.
Monaco have won five of their six games in August. In the process they became the first French team to get through both the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round (against Fenerbahçe) and play-offs (against Villarreal).
“Not too bad,” was Jardim’s assessment of his team’s opening month. The Portuguese rarely shows his emotions as he did after Monaco defeated Villarreal and again on Sunday he ran on to the pitch to hug each of his players.
“The key was the players’ spirit,” he said, deflecting praise away from his own tactics. “We saw that Paris were strong on the left with [Layvin] Kurzawa and [Ángel] Di María. So for us, to line up with [Andrea] Raggi and Sidibé was the best choice.”
Striker Valère Germain, the main centre-forward while Radamel Falcao nurses the knee injury he suffered against Fenerbahçe, also hailed “a great month”.
Germain conceded that there was “a hiccup in the first league game [2-2 against fellow leaders Guingamp]” but added: “We’re in the Champions League and we scalped the [Ligue 1] holders. We had great spirit and wanted to show everyone that Monaco would be around this season.”
Could the Principality side thwart Paris, who are looking for their fifth crown in a row. “No,” Germain said. “I think they will win it again with a good margin. But we clearly want this second place.”
With their first reverse in the league since March, Paris unusually sit in fifth place. Emery said: “My full confidence remains in the players. They worked to earn their place in the team. We had the chances against Monaco to peg them back in the second half. However, a counter-attack sealed it.”
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