LEIPZIG, Germany: RB Leipzig have shown that they can compete at the top level of European football, coach Ralph Hasenhuettl said after the German club’s 1-1 draw with Monaco on their Champions League debut on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
“We have made our first steps here. We played well against a strong opponent, and showed that we can compete at this level,” said Hasenhuettl.
“It was a good start from us all, and it makes us want more.”
Leipzig picked up a point from their first ever Champions League fixture, after Emil Forsberg’s first half opener was quickly cancelled out by Monaco’s Youri Tielemans.
The Leipzig coach admitted that he felt his team could have taken all three points against Monaco, and said that both he and his players had been cautious as they made their first foray into Champions League football.
“I think everyone noticed that we weren’t as calm on the ball and that we didn’t take as many risks as usual.
“I chose not to bring on another forward towards the end, because it’s always possible to concede from set pieces, and Monaco showed towards the end that they could be dangerous.”
The cautious approach, Hasenhuettl said, was partly down to the absence of Liverpool bound midfield star Naby Keita, who was ruled out of Wednesday’s fixture with a groin injury.
“We did miss Naby. If he had been there, then we probably would had a bit more stability and a bit more penetration going forward. To get a point without him is a great achievement.”
It is nearly thirty years since the city of Leipzig, where the German Football Federation was founded, has hosted a game in European club competition. The historical significance, Hasenhuettl said, had not escaped him and his team.
“The atmosphere gave us goosebumps tonight,” said striker Timo Werner. “We really wanted to win, but Monaco defended well.”
“I also noticed that the expectations were high, and the people of Leipzig were excited to see a game at this level,” said Hasenhuettl. “For us it was obviously something special.”
The Austrian even broke with his usual touchline dress code of tracksuit and trainers, donning a suit to mark the occasion of RB’s Champions League debut.
“The players started laughing when I came to give the team talk, because they’re not used to seeing me in a suit.”
Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim, meanwhile, told reporters that his team’s lack of potency going forward was down to the personnel changes he had endured during the summer, most notably the departure of Kylian Mbappé to Paris Saint Germain.
“Every season, it’s different,” said Jardim.
“It’s a new team. You can’t compare this team to the one we had last season or the one we had two seasons ago.”