It was the dream Coupe de la Ligue final. Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain, the two best French teams this season, first and second in Ligue 1 and two of the most attacking sides in Europe (129 goals for Monaco in all competitions prior to the final, 104 for Paris).
Both armed with some big stars and some young prodigies, the first domestic trophy of the campaign was at stake, as well as a psychological advantage for the winners in the league title race too.
Saturday’s match was also broadcast in 149 countries around the world and Ligue 1 needed the best publicity possible. The two teams didn’t disappoint, offering a wonderful spectacle to those watching.
However, this final had a dream ending only for PSG, who produced a wonderful performance and win, while Monaco had an absolute nightmare of an evening.
It was PSG’s fourth Coupe de la Ligue in a row — a record — and Edinson Cavani scored a brace just like he did in the 2014 and the 2015 finals. The Uruguay striker, who also missed a sitter, has now scored 40 goals in 40 matches in all competitions. Better than Zlatan Ibrahimovic at this stage last season or in any of his four years in the French capital.
The most surprising aspect of this final was not that PSG were capable of playing such superb football. They had done it against Barcelona at the Parc des Princes (4-0), and away at Marseille in the league (5-1) for example. They are capable of dominating anyone technically, of beating the high pressing of any team and of scoring at pretty much any time.
No, the most surprising was the extent of the defeat from Monaco. They did lose 4-0 away at Nice in the league back in September, but it was a freak result in which they dominated and didn’t deserve to lose.
On Saturday, Leonardo Jardim’s men deserved to be beaten and probably by a bigger margin. They had only two shots on target (nine for Paris) which is their lowest total in a match this season. Kylian Mbappe was totally kept quiet by Presnel Kimpembe and Thiago Silva, the pair of centre-backs for PSG and the Ligue 1 leaders.
Despite levelling the scores at 1-1 in the first half, Monaco had no answers to the brilliance and the intensity of the PSG attack. This loss is a huge blow for the principality, who are not used to be dominated in that way, not even in the Champions League against Manchester City or Tottenham, the two strongest teams — along with PSG — they have faced this season.
It was just not their night, and without Fabinho, their leader in midfield who was suspended, they looked lost at times. Radamel Falcao’s absence up front due to injury was felt, too, but Monaco were simply beaten by a better side on Saturday.
Now, the Ligue 1 title race becomes even more interesting. There are eight games left for each club. Monaco are currently three points clear of PSG. Their two toughest remaining matches are at Lyon on April 23 (Week 34) and away at Rennes on May 20 (Week 38).
For Paris, there will be a trip to Nice on April 30 (Week 35) and one to St Etienne on May 13 (Week 37). But psychologically, Monaco must be hurt. It was Les Monegasques first chance of silverware since 2010 and a defeat to PSG in the French Cup final.
Their last trophy — the Coupe de la Ligue, as well — was won in 2003. They were so looking forward to this final, so confident they could beat a PSG team still traumatised by the Barcelona debacle. Monaco failed miserably.
So what’s next? Can they recover to win Ligue 1 for the first time since 2000? Next weekend, Monaco travel to Angers in the league.
Funnily enough, Angers were also Monaco’s first opponents after their thrashing at Nice. At the time, they struggled to get a 2-1 win before luckily drawing at home with Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.
Before their clash with Angers this time, they will host Lille on Tuesday evening in the Coupe de France quarterfinals. Jardim and his players have lost a battle, but they haven’t lost the war just yet. They have lost the first round of their boxing bout with PSG, but there are two more to go, in the league and potentially in the cup, where Paris have Avranches in another quarterfinal.
Only time will tell, then, if this Saturday’s cup final will be a turning point in this very exciting season.
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