#Arsenal 1 Monaco 3 (Half-time 0-1)
Manager Arsene Wenger has described last night's shocking home performance and defeat at the hands of his old club Monaco, as including "suicidal" defending, and that was at least partly responsible for their 3-1 reversal. In truth, it took them until the start of the second-half before they played at anything like the expected tempo, from what is usually a fast flowing and slick passing side. They did have some cause for hope after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had halved the deficit on the night, but then he too caught the bad habit of giving the ball away in a dangerous position, resulting in the potentially crucial third away goal. It leaves the Gunners with the proverbial mountain to climb at the Stade Louis II stadium in the return match on March 17th, needing to score a minimum of three goals now to go through.
With royalty at the Emirates to watch the action, in the shape of Prince Albert II, the 'plum' draw for the home side was expected to turn into a demonstration of the ability of Wenger's cultured style and methods. Instead, he had to watch on as his side failed to register a single shot on target during a painful first period for the London side. Monaco were content to hit their opponents on the counter-attack and defied expectations when they took the lead seven minutes before the break, as Geoffrey Kondogbia got the French side a vital away goal, with a deflected strike that wrong footed keeper David Ospina.
Arsenal were brighter after the interval, but it was just proving to be one of those nights for their striker Olivier Giroud, as everything he tried seemed to go wrong. The Frenchman missed at least two clear chances in the second-half alone. The worst of the lot was probably after Alexis Sanchez had drawn a save out of Danijel Subasic, with Giroud blasting the rebound wastefully over from close range. He was to be ultimately substituted on the hour mark as his manager clearly decided he had seen enough, with Theo Walcott to provide some much need pace and threat as the game wore on, but no more success. Giroud was still on the pitch though when the Ligue 1 side doubled their advantage through the much maligned Dimitar Berbatov. Monaco seized on a poor decision by Per Mertesacker on the half-way line to overcommit himself, allowing Anthony Martial to scoot down the left and square for the Bulgarian to make a composed finish. For Berbatov it was reminiscent of his better days during spells at Spurs, Manchester United and Fulham in the Premier League.
Second-half substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain raised the volume from the home fans briefly, when he scored a wonderful curling right-foot shot into the top corner as the match entered injury time. As he tried to provide more spark to the attack minutes later, he lost possession in his own half, allowing the visitors to swiftly transfer the ball through for Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco to run on and finish unerringly off the far post. The final whistle was blown seconds later and the stunned Arsenal fans tried to come to terms with what they had just witnessed from their side.
Prince Albert looked to have enjoyed his experience among the 'commoners' at the match, allowing pictures of him sitting on the away bench at one time to be taken. He will have been even more delighted with the result, as the tie is now surely Monaco's to lose, as they contemplate qualification to the lofty heights of the last-eight of the Champions League. #Football