Monaco thrash Real, reach Champs' League semis

7th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

MONACO, April 6 (AFP) - Monaco claimed a deserved place in the Champions League semi-finals here on Tuesday after knocking out Real Madrid in one of the most improbable upsets in the history of the competition.

MONACO, April 6 (AFP) - Monaco claimed a deserved place in the Champions League semi-finals here on Tuesday after knocking out Real Madrid in one of the most improbable upsets in the history of the competition.

On a night of drama at the Louis II stadium Monaco, all but written off after losing the first leg of the quarter-final 4-2 in Madrid, handed out a 3-1 beating to the nine-time European champions to leave the two sides level at 5-5 with the fighting French going through on away goals.

Monaco skipper Ludovic Giuly was the hero of the hour with a double sandwiched between a goal from Real's on-loan striker Fernando Morientes.Raul scored Real's lone effort although Ronaldo, and later Raul, had goals disallowed for offside.

For Monaco coach Didier Deschamps it was a fully deserved result.

"My players are writing a memorable page in football history for Monaco, and for the whole of French football," he said.

"It's a deserved victory for us after our performance tonight, and just shows that anything can happen in football, and that you have to have faith all the way to the end."

Monaco started out as if their lives depended on victory, with Patrice Evra teaming up well time and time again with Croat Dado Prso on the left. On one incursion into the Spanish defence Evra was sent crashing to the ground after a rash tackle by Ivan Helguera, who was booked by Italian referee Pierluigi Collina.

Jerome Rothen sent the resulting free kick in high with Real keeper Iker Casillas fumbling his save - but the Madrid defence closed ranks to get the ball away.

At the other end Zinedine Zidane had had Flavio Roma at full stretch with a menacing chip from the right.

Real opened the scoring, largely against the run of play, in the 36th minute.

Ronaldo set up the prowling Raul from the left, and the Madrid skipper was given plenty of space to flick the ball past Roma in the Monaco goal.

That was the last thing Monaco needed if they were to keep their Champions League dream flickering but Giuly's leveller in first half stoppage time kept their European adventure alive and kicking.

Evra was at the heart of the move, his cross headed on by Morientes with the Monaco captain's low strike flying past Casillas.

The second half was only 180 seconds old when Morientes rose high above the Real defence from eight yards out to beat the static Casillas and leave the quarter-final on a knife edge. One more goal from the hosts without reply and they were through to their third semi-final in ten years.

Monaco manager Didier Deschamps brought on Shabani Nonda for Prso on the hour mark, hoping the Congolese striker could work the oracle again after returning from an eight-month injury absence to inspire a Monaco fightback from three goals down against Ajaccio in the league last week.

And sure enough within minutes of coming on he was instrumental in setting Giuly up for his double as the balance of power ebbed away from the Spaniards, the diminutive frontman - with his back turned to goal - deftly backheeling a cross whipped in by Nonda from the right.

Ronaldo then had his goal adjudged offside shortly after Real coach Carlos Queiroz had replaced Fernandez Borja, who was standing in for the suspended David Beckham, with Santiago Solari.

Nonda almost deepened Madrid's woes with a dangerous weighted shot which edged over the crossbar.

Monaco, who will now play Chelsea in the semi-finals, held on for a famous victory, almost adding another in injury time when substitute Emmanuel Adebayor hit the post.

The defeat means Real, who were beaten last year by Juventus in the semis, miss a shot at the title for the second year in a row.

But for Real playmaker Zinedine Zidane, the best team won on the night."The best team won tonight," said the Frenchman.

"We're all gutted. What made the difference was conceding a goal right on the stroke of half time.

"Their victory is deserved, and you have to congratulate Monaco," added Zidane, who said he experienced the same giant-killing sensations when playing with Bordeaux.

"I had a similar experience with Bordeaux against AC Milan (in 1996), now I'm on the other side.

"We just have to accept that Monaco were a much better team than us tonight."

                                                                 Subject: French news

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