Valencia defeat Monaco to reach group stage


AFP

MONACO — Valencia held off Monaco in their Champions League play-off tie to qualify for the group stages, despite a 2-1 second-leg defeat at the Stade Louis II on Tuesday as they progressed 4-3 on aggregate.

The Spanish side held a 3-1 advantage from the first leg and Alvaro Negredo’s superb early goal on Tuesday stunted the principality club’s hopes of a comeback. Andrea Raggi hauled Monaco level after 17 minutes and they took the lead on the night thanks to Elderson’s close-range finish after 75 minutes, but it proved too little, too late as last season’s quarterfinalists go into the Europa League groups instead. For Valencia — the two-time runners up having lost the 2000 and 2001 finals to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively — it’s a return to the lucrative group stages after a two-year absence. Nuno Espirito Santo’s Valencia started superbly and — clearly buoyed by Sofiane Feghouli’s late third goal in the first leg last Wednesday at the Mestalla — took a deserved lead when Monaco defender Fabinho gave the ball away and former Manchester City striker Negredo flighted a sumptuous chip over home ‘keeper Danijel Subasic from the left side of the penalty box in the fourth minute.

Ligue 1 side Monaco had no answer to Valencia’s verve and swagger early on and Negredo should have made it two only to blaze over when unmarked in the area after another fine team move. But despite being on the backfoot, Leonardo Jardim’s men leveled in the 17th minute. Australian international goalkeeper Mathew Ryan’s unconvincing punch fell kindly to Raggi and the Italian full-back’s superb swivel and shot flew into the bottom corner. The La Liga club were all of a sudden looking nervous with Monaco getting stronger and stronger as the first period progressed without properly testing Ryan in the visiting goal. The Ligue 1 side — 2004 runners-up after losing 3-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Porto — scored a second with 15 minutes remaining to re-ignite their hopes of progressing. Ryan could only palm a free-kick against the chest of Monaco substitute Guido Carrillo who inadvertantly teed up fellow sub Elderson with the Nigerian international poking in from a yard out. Monaco huffed and puffed but they couldn’t find the third goal which would’ve forced extra-time. Valencia side came through 4-3 on aggregate to maintain their record of never having lost a European qualifying tie over two legs, while Monaco fail to reach the group stages for the tenth time in 12 seasons since reaching the final in 2004.