Resilient Monaco stun Arsenal with 3-1 away win
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Veteran striker Dimitar Berbatov demonstrated his enduring quality by inspiring Monaco to a 3-1 victory over Arsenal on Wednesday, priming the principality team for a place in the Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in 11 years.
Arsenal’s first-leg loss came against the lowest-ranked team remaining in the competition – and which was also depleted by injuries – ensuring a miserable night for Arsene Wenger against his former side.
Monaco hadn’t even managed to score in the first hour of the six group stage games, but stunned the Emirates Stadium by taking the lead in the 38th minute. It did owe much to good fortune, with Geoffrey Kondogbia’s deflected strike wrong-footing goalkeeper David Ospina.
But Monaco punished Arsenal’s sloppiness eight minutes into the second half, launching a counterattack which the 34-year-old Berbatov completed on his return to London – where he played for Tottenham and Fulham.
Although Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s curling strike in stoppage time briefly gave Arsenal hope going into the second leg on March 17, Monaco still had time to restore its two-goal cushion through Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco after a rapid break.
It was an impressive night for Monaco, which last reached the round of 16 in 2005 – a year after reaching the final. It was also deploying a makeshift back-four that Arsenal couldn’t exploit.
Monaco scored three goals in north London after only netting four times in the group stage, when it qualified as surprise winners.
Arsenal is consistent in qualifying for the Champions League, playing in Europe’s elite competition for the 17th successive season, but it has never won the European Cup and has been eliminated in the round of the 16 for the last four seasons.
The 3-1 loss completes a difficult set of first legs for English teams. After Chelsea’s 1-1 draw at Paris Saint-Germain last week, Manchester City was beaten 2-1 by Barcelona on Tuesday.