On Sunday, February 7, AS Monaco travelled west to face off against Nîmes Olympique on their home ground of the Stade Costières. The Monegasques have enjoyed a six-match winning streak since the beginning of the year, and would be confidently seeking a seventh straight win. For this fixture, head coach Niko Kovac selected a mostly identical squad to that which bested Nice in the Côte d’Azur derby, with the exceptional additions of Aleksandr Golovin and Fodé Ballo-Touré to the starting line-up.
As the match kicked off, so did the action. Within minutes of the starting whistle, Monaco had commandeered control of the match, as a curled cross the left flank found Golovin in a dangerous area. Monaco’s midfielder then wasted no time in taking a firm left-footed strike, which stunned the opposing goalie and earned Monaco a 0-1 lead in just the third minute of play.
Already one nil down, bottom place Nîmes struggled to bring it back, and would instead suffer another Golovin goal just 10 minutes after the first. The Russian was left unmarked by the Nîmes defence and calmly capitalised on the opportunity by launching the ball just under the crossbar to bring the Principality side up to 0-2 at the 13th minute.
The hosts were down badly and early, but persisted in the face of their visiting Ligue 1 rivals. At the 23rd minute, Nîmes’ number eight Lucas Deaux struck the ball perfectly between the red and whites’ posts, and with that brought his team up to 1-2. Seemingly spurred on, Nîmes maintained their intensity, and were rewarded at the 32nd minute as Zinédine Ferhat made a cool finish to bring the score to a level 2-2.
Both sides then took the time to sit back and attempt to create offensive opportunities, with some very nearly making another difference in the scoreline. However, neither team managed to gain the advantage as the first half concluded.
Upon returning from the locker room, Kovac would bring on Krepin Diatta, Cesc Fabregas and Stevan Jovetić. The refreshed squad played well, and the now thrown-off hosts shot themselves in the figurative foot as they earned Golovin a free kick. Clinical as ever in his set-piece taking abilities, the Russian took his shot from just beyond the penalty area and found the back of the net with a crucially curled shot. Monaco’s midfield menace thus earned himself his first ever career hat-trick, and restored his side’s lead in the 61st minute.
Unsurprisingly, the visiting Monegasque’s were not content with the scoreline standing at 2-3, and continued to press upfield. After a difficult 16 minutes, Golovin added to his already established success, as the Russian found teammate Kevin Volland for an assist. The German collected the pass and chipped the ball with his left foot, extending the red and white lead to 2-4.
Still standing strong, Nîmes kept up their fighting spirit, and were given a free kick with 10 minutes left in the match. The hosts trusted Niclas Eliasson with the shot, and the midfielder did not disappoint. Eliasson’s strike found the top corner of Benjamin Lecomte’s goal, bringing the scoreline to 3-4, while injecting new life into the match in its final moments. As the final whistle concluded an intense match, the Monegasques were victorious.
Rightfully jubilant, Monaco celebrated their seventh consecutive win in 2021. The Principality team have proven themselves to be formidable opponents, and now stand 10 points clear of fifth place Rennes in Ligue 1 standings. Kovac and co’s next outing will be against Grenoble, in the Coupe de France’s Round of 64 on February 10.
All images courtesy of AS Monaco