Monaco qualify as Wenger regrets Champions League 1st leg damage

Monaco qualified for the Champions League quarter-finals, for the first time since 2004, and went through on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate result against Arsenal in a thriller at the Louis II stadium.

Arsene Wenger, who was returning to the club he coached between 1987 and 2004, was left a frustrated figure after goals from Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey were enough for a 2-0 win on Tuesday night but not enough to send the North Londoners through.

“We knew it would be very difficult to score that many goals,” a philosophic Wenger told BeIn Sport after the tie.

“We weren’t realistic enough in our approach and we should have been up by more at half-time.

“At the end of the day, we paid for our performance in the first leg. Monaco were playing at home but didn’t have a shot on goal. We were very close but they surprised us in the first match because subconsciously we were too sure of ourselves,” added the Frenchman.

“It’s not a question of if we deserved to go through but of being realistic and we made too many errors in the first leg.

“We have to congratulate Monaco for their place in the last eight as they defended really well. They qualified so ‘Bravo’! We are on the right track and played the match we had too.

“The last three months we haven’t lacked in anything except our performance in the first leg.

“We have a superb spirit and great qualities,” added the Frenchman, who helped Monaco win the 1988 French title, the 1991 French Cup and also guided the team to the 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup final where they lost against German side Werder Bremen.

Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasilyev hailed a great night in the club’s history.

“It’s a great night for AS Monaco and it’s been 11 years since the 2003-04 season when the team reached this level. Arsenal played a great match but we stayed solid defensively although the final minutes were very difficult.

“It’s great happiness but we play every match to win. In the changing room, the players were very proud to qualify but it’s true we didn’t celebrate like we did after winning the first match.” he added.

Arsenal were attempting to become the first team in Champions League history to overcome a 3-1 first-leg defeat at home but came up agonisingly short.

Constant pressure for 90 minutes, could have, provided more than two goals on another day, but the excellent Danijel Subasic turned in his second straight world class showing to play a decisive role.

Ramsey, who came on as a substitute and played a key role in putting Arsenal into position to qualify, explained there was reason for deep regret after the defeat.

“We’ve always gone out to Bayern Munich and Barcelona at this stage but no disrespect to Monaco, we thought we’d have a good opportunity to qualify but we gave ourselves a tough test from the first leg.

“It’s nearly again, but it’s not enough.” said the Welshman.

Monaco become the second French team to go into Friday’s draw, following Paris Saint-Germain’s equally dramatic victory over Chelsea last week and will be joined by Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Porto and Atletico Madrid ahead of Wednesday’s matches.

Photo Credits : AFP

Arsenal fall just short as Monaco qualify

Monaco desperately held on to qualify for the Champions League quarter-finals after a desperate fightback from Arsenal on Tuesday fell just short at the expense of away goals after the tie finished 3-3 on aggregate.

Arsene Wenger, who was returning to the club he led to the French title in 1991, looked on as his valiant side almost completed the greatest comeback in Champions League history.

A 2-0 Arsenal victory at a packed Louis II stadium was one goal short after a first-half strike from Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey’s goal with 11 minutes left set up a barnstorming finish.

The Londoners ran themselves into the ground as they pressed for the qualifying goal but an inspired performance from Monaco’s Croatian ‘keeper Danijel Subasic proved decisive.

“We suffered but we played some good football too,” Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia told BeIn Sports after an absorbing encounter.

“Arsenal started the match and we were under pressure but the most important thing is that we’re in the quarter-finals.

“We weren’t favourites tonight (Tuesday) but we gave everything we had and we managed to do it.”

Ramsey set up the thrilling finale when he scrambled the ball home after fellow substitute Theo Walcott had his shot come back off the post on 79 minutes.

Giroud then had a point-blank header pawed off the line by the acrobatic Subasic as Arsenal threw everything forward in search of the goal that would send them through to the last eight.

Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker was gracious in defeat and said the first leg played a key role;

“The best team went through and Monaco deserved it because they played much better in the first leg,” said the German defender.

“We played well today (Tuesday) but it was a massive deficit, and it wasn’t enough tonight. We came here and tried absolutely everything, and when you look at the game we could have scored more than two.

“Monaco deserve it and that’s absolutely fine. They caused a lot of problems away from home but we have to admit that we regret the first game.

“But if we continue to play like that we’ll do well in the FA Cup and the league. But play as badly as we did in the first game and you’re out of the Champions League. Monaco deserved it.”

Monaco came into the tie with a 9-0 qualifying record in European competition after winning the first leg while Arsenal were trying to break a five year jinx of failing to reach the quarter-finals.

History was not in favour of the Gunners with no previous teams in the Champions League era managing to score more than once away from home in the second leg after losing the first leg and going on to qualify.

After a cagey start by both teams, Arsenal gradually took control of the first-half with Giroud going close with a 14th minute header before Laurent Koscielny glanced his close range effort off the crossbar.

With over 60 per cent possession during the opening 45 minutes, Arsenal finally got the goal their pressure deserved when the dynamic Giroud blasted home his own rebound after Subasic had blocked his initial shot.

There was a moment of controversy when Alexis Sanchez went down under pressure from Fabinho but instead of a penalty to the visitors, the Norwegian referee booked the Chilean for diving.

The Gunners sensed blood and poured forward for the rest of the half with only a goal-clearance from Aymen Abdennour from Welbeck’s shot and a desperate Subasic save from Giroud keeping it 1-0 at the break.

The second half provided more of the same although Wenger’s side started to fatigue and left gaps open at the back at the expense of pushing numbers forward in search of goals.

Ramsey’s goal gave them renewed energy and Giroud almost made it an historic night but the French side, who last reached the quarter-finals in 2004, when they went on to lose the final against Porto, held on in front their nervous fans for a thrilling victory.

Photo Credits : AFP