Leonardo Jardim’s first game back on the AS Monaco bench ended in a penalty shootout defeat to Guingamp on Tuesday night in the Coupe de la Ligue semi-final, but the Portuguese boss insisted he saw plenty of positive signs from his team.
Gelson Martins made his debut for the Monegasques, and played the final pass in both goals in a 2-2 draw, with Rony Lopes getting the opener with a superb overhead kick. However, Monaco ultimately succumbed to the costs of an early red card as their 2-0 lead was cancelled out and their fate sealed on spot kicks.
Jardim, whose reappointment at the club was confirmed late last week just four months after he was originally sacked, watched on at the weekend as Monaco struggled to another defeat in Ligue 1 at Dijon. The former Sporting coach was immediately able to inject new blood into the starting line-up, with Gelson Martins making his debut following his loan switch from Atletico Madrid.
The newfound positivity suffered an early blow at Guingamp when Monaco received yet another sending off after just ten minutes. William Vainqueur’s straight red meant the visitors have been reduced to ten men in each of their last three matches, with two of the dismissals coming in the first ten minutes.
Monaco’s response to losing a man was remarkable. On 17 minutes Jardim’s side took the lead, with Gelson finding Lopes inside the box and the midfielder displaying fantastic improvisation to cushion the ball up to allow himself the chance to execute a perfect bicycle kick into the bottom corner. The goal was Lopes’ second since returning to action after missing four months of the season through injury.
Five minutes later, Monaco were 2-0 up, this time through an expert counter attack from defending a corner. Lopes found Gelson out on the right flank and the ex-Sporting man brought the ball forward before laying a pass into the path of Russian Alexsandr Golovin, who lashed his finish past Karl Johnsson for Monaco’s second.
Monaco held their two-goal advantage until half time, but Guingamp, who had former Benfica defender Pedro Rebocho in their backline, scored twice in the opening ten minutes of the second half through Mendy (46’) and Thuram (55’) to draw the home side level and set up the eventual penalty shootout to decide the tie.
By the time of the penalties, both Gelson and Rony Lopes had been withdrawn, but Rebocho was among the scorers for Guingamp as they progressed with a 5-4 win from twelve yards.
"This is the attitude I expect" - Jardim
“The first half was better than the second,” Jardim said after the game. “But we played almost 87 minutes with ten men. With the tiredness in the second half, we did not have the opportunity to keep the same attacking force.
“Many forward players were tired. Gelson Martins did not play much at Atlético. Golovin had cramps. The attitude, the commitment of the players was very good, which I loved. These are things I want to see for this team. I want it to be organised, that the players try to win the duels.
"This is the attitude I expect from them. We will work that for the championship. We will do everything to fulfil our goal, which is to stay up.
“Is the defeat easier to swallow because of this? Yes, I saw a combative team with the right attitude. We played well, even with 10. I saw good technical plays. It's very hard to play with ten men for so long. I'm happy with the attitude, the commitment. This is most important.”
By Sean Gillen