For their first fixture in 2021, Niko Kovac and co. travelled north to Brittany on Thursday, January 6 to take on FC Lorient. Before kick-off, both teams paid tribute to the Breton club’s gardener, Yohann Essirard, who tragically died while at work on December 20. The two captains each presented a wreath of flowers in the middle of the Stade du Moustoir’s pitch, and the 22 starting players all wore a black armband.

“Tribute to Yohann Essirard when the two teams entered the field before the warm-up.”

The action kicked-off right away, with the hosts imposing themselves early on, but before long they were in trouble. Kevin Volland was on the receiving end of a corner kick before he deflected the ball off a near post and onto Monaco defender Axel Disasi, who wasted no time in finding the back of the net and thus giving the Principality side a 0-1 edge at the sixth minute.

A period of peacetime followed the early drama, as both teams took turns to take shots and then just about miss them. That was, until the 32nd minute of play, which saw Lorient’s Terem Moffi strike the ball just below Vito Mannone’s crossbar to equalise the score. After a solid first half, the teams returned to the locker room level with one another.

The beginning of the second half involved no less drama than the first, as some unsolicited shirt tugging on behalf of Jonathan Delaplace earned him a red card at the 49th minute, leaving Lorient outnumbered and the game changed. Just before this incident, Sofiane Diop and Guillermo Maripán were substituted in, and they were joined by Aleksandr Golovin just before a red and white corner at the 63rd minute.

The Russian was then promptly passed to from the corner, before he booted the ball for a long and no doubt satisfying goal. Within just four seconds of play, Golovin registered Monaco’s first goal from outside the penalty box in this season, and gave his club a 1-2 lead at the 64th minute. Keen to recover, Lorient responded with a deflected shot for their second equaliser of the evening, bringing it to a level 2-2 67 minutes in.

On the ensuing restart, Maripán found a rushing Volland from way back in his own half of the pitch, and the star striker concluding this great effort with a calm header over the top of the opposing goalie to bring the red and whites back on top in mere minutes. At the 69th minute, Monaco led 2-3.

After a few more minutes, the Monegasques decided that they had not had enough, and Diop stepped up to the challenge. On a pass from Volland, the young Monaco midfielder aggressively scored his fifth season goal and the fourth for Monaco at the 78th minute, in a game that was looking locked off. However, that wouldn’t be the case, as it would be Maripán’s moment again. The midfielder took advantage of a deflection in the dying moments of the match, and registered his own goal to make it 2-5 for Monaco at the 89th minute.

“It’s over! A crazy match and a great victory for Monaco on the pitch of Moustoir.”

With the final whistle blown, Monaco jubilantly celebrated a blow-out victory, their third in a row and the first of many this year. Having had all three substitutes score, head coach Niko Kovac would surely be happy with his decisions and the performance of the Principality side’s players. A clean run sees Monaco ascend to sixth place on the Ligue 1 table, as they look ahead to welcoming Angers SCO to Stade Louis II on Saturday, January 9.

All images courtesy of AS Monaco