Dark horses putting the elite on alert

Monaco midfielder Fabinho celebrating his 29th-minute goal. Europe's top-scoring team beat Manchester City 3-1 and 6-6 on aggregate, going through on away goals. They will be a force to be reckoned with in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Monaco midfielder Fabinho celebrating his 29th-minute goal. Europe's top-scoring team beat Manchester City 3-1 and 6-6 on aggregate, going through on away goals. They will be a force to be reckoned with in the Champions League quarter-finals.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARIS • Monaco manager Leonardo Jardim warned rivals that one of the most exciting Ligue 1 teams in years will fear no one when the Champions League quarter-finals draw is made today.

Relying on hyper-talented youngsters, Monaco prevailed 3-1 on Wednesday to eliminate Manchester City on away goals after the tie ended 6-6 on aggregate.

As in the first leg, which they lost 5-3 after leading 3-2, they seemed to run out of steam in the second half. But Tiemoue Bakayoko, one of five players aged 23 or younger to start the game, headed the decisive goal with 13 minutes left.

"We never panicked. Our strength this season is that we are not scared to play," attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva said.

Asked whether Monaco should fear a team in the quarter-finals or if they should be feared instead, Jardim replied: "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 (placed third) in the Premier League. It is time to say that our league is competitive."

Once again, Monaco, who groomed 1998 World Cup winners Lilian Thuram, Emmanuel Petit, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet, owed their success to home-grown players, with the 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe standing out in the absence of the injured talisman 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' defence.

In 17 starts this season, he has now scored 16 goals and is already at the door of a first France call-up.

"Mbappe is the DNA of our club. I am so proud that he is growing so fast," said club vice-president Vadim Vasiliyev.

Bakayoko said the French league leaders deserved to progress.

"Over the two legs, I think we deserved to qualify as it didn't happen by luck. We have to continue like this," he said.

"When we look at the quarter-finals line-up, we have nothing to be afraid of."

Monaco have scored 126 goals in all competitions this season, and Europe's big guns have been warned.

"We have the best attack in Europe," added Jardim.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2017, with the headline 'Dark horses putting the elite on alert'. Print Edition | Subscribe