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City news, 10.12.2014 14:12
Defensive steel takes Monaco past Zenit
Second-half goals from defenders Aymen Abdennour and Fabinho earned AS Monaco FC a 2-0 victory over FC Zenit that clinched top spot in Group C and took the Ligue 1 side through to the UEFA Champions League round of 16.
Monaco needed a draw to advance, and once again made best use of limited opportunities. Given defence had proven their best form of attack throughout the competition, it was fitting that Abdennour and Fabinho got their goals at the Stade Louis II. With Bayer 04 Leverkusen held to a goalless draw at SL Benfica, Monaco leapfrogged the Bundesliga club at the summit. Zenit finished third and move into the UEFA Europa League.
Monaco had remained in contention to progress thanks to their defensive qualities, and they again came to the fore to keep at bay visitors needing a win to pip their opponents to a last-16 place. Surprisingly given only his second UEFA Champions League outing, Wallace did not look out of his depth, making a pair of timely first-half interceptions.
The wicked delivery of Zenit captain Danny had suggested the visitors' most fruitful strategy may be to exploit set pieces. Yet the only time Danijel Subai was significantly troubled before the break was when Nicolas Lombaerts rose to head goalwards – the Monaco keeper eased to his right to clutch the Belgian centre-back's effort.
Home forays forward were rare, but – as they have done throughout the group stage – Monaco proved incredibly efficient. Captain Jrmy Toulalan snaked into the Zenit penalty area before firing narrowly wide, before Dimitar Berbatov produced an improvised, flicked effort that might have found the net but for a deflection off Lombaerts.
Berbatov's opportunity had been created by Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, and the Belgian was central to his team breaking the deadlock and with it, securing Monaco's progress in the competition. Zenit had delivered a number of searching free-kicks into the penalty area without finding a target; Ferreira-Carrasco picked out Abdennour, whose powerful header flashed past Yuri Lodygin.
As Zenit pressed for an equaliser, Monaco exploited the space vacated by the visitors, and – after being picked out by Joo Moutinho's pass – Fabinho fired clinically between Lodygin's legs to complete victory. The shine was slightly diminished by a late yellow card for Toulalan which means he will be suspended for the first leg of his team's last-16 tie.
News source: UEFA