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 2nd on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) as they progressed 4-3 on aggregate.
The Spanish side — two-time runners up in the competition having lost the 2000 and 2001 finals to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively — held a 3-1 advantage from the first leg and Alvaro Negredo’s early second-leg goal proved the difference against the principality club.
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.
Last season’s quarter-finalists 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 side leveled after 17 minutes.
Australian international goalkeeper Mathew Ryan’s unconvincing punch fell kindly to Andrea 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 looking stronger and stronger as the first period progressed without properly testing Ryan in the visiting goal.
Monaco continued to press and the Ligue 1 side — 2004 runners-up when they lost 3-0 to Jose Mourinho’s Porto — scored a second after 75 minutes to re-ignite their hopes of progressing.
Ryan could only palm a free-kick against the chest of Monaco substitute Guido Carrillo who inadvertently teed up fellow substitute 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.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s Valencia side came through 4-3 to maintain their record of never having lost a European qualifying tie over two legs.
The Spanish side are back in the group stages after a two-year absence, while Monaco fail to reach the group stages for the tenth time in 12 seasons since reaching the final in 2004.