When Michael Owen tweeted that Monaco were a “good draw” for Manchester City, the remark raised a few eyebrows in France, and one of the most exciting Ligue 1 teams in years will fear no one when the Champions League quarter-finals draw is made on Friday.
Relying on a bunch of hyper-talented youngsters, Monaco prevailed 3-1 on Wednesday to eliminate City on away goals after the tie ended 6-6 on aggregate, pressing and attacking like there was no tomorrow in a breathtaking first half.
Just as in the first leg, which they lost 5-3 after leading 3-2, they seemed to run out of steam in the second, but Tiemoue Bakayoko, one of five players aged 23 or under to start the game, headed the decisive goal with 13 minutes left.
It was the first time a team coached by Pep Guardiola had been knocked out as early as the Champions League last 16.
Asked whether Monaco should fear a team in the quarter-finals or whether it was them who should be feared, Coach Leonardo Jardim said: “The second option.
“A lot of people thought we could not go through (after the first leg) but we are a great team. We had already scored three in Manchester.
“We dominated a club who is second in the Premier League. It is time to say that our league is competitive.”
Once again, Monaco, who groomed World Cup winners Lilian Thuram, Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet, owed their success to home-grown players, with 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe standing out in the absence of the injured Radamel Falcao.
The forward’s pace was too much to handle for City and Mbappe put Monaco in the driving seat with a goal after eight minutes, proving a nightmare for the visitors’ defense.
In 17 starts this season, Mbappe has now scored 16 goals, earning him his first call-up to the France squad, along with team mate Benjamin Mendy, for a World Cup qualifier in Luxembourg and a friendly at home against Spain later this month.
“Mbappe is the DNA of our club. I am so proud that he is growing so fast,” said club vice-president Vadim Vasiliyev.
“What he does at his age is just huge,” said former France and Monaco winger Ludovic Giuly.
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