Monaco has no fear of Champions League semifinal opponent
MONACO: After such a long journey to reach the Champions League semifinals, Monaco has no fear of who it plays next.
With good reason.
Monaco dispatched Borussia Dortmund 3-1 on Wednesday — with red-hot striker Kylian Mbappe continuing his remarkable rise to stardom with another goal — to go through 6-3 on aggregate.
Coach Leonardo Jardim's spellbinding brand of attacking football has produced 141 goals so far this season, including three goals home and away in both knockout rounds.
Monaco reached the 2004 final against the odds, knocking out Real Madrid along the way, and they could meet again in Friday's draw. In another parallel, midfield great Zinedine Zidane was playing for Real Madrid back then and he is now the club's coach.
Monaco's other two potential opponents are Atletico Madrid — which lost last year's final to Real — and 2015 runner-up Juventus.
But asked which side he feared the most, Jardim's answer spoke volumes for Monaco's confidence.
"I think this question is something for our opponents now," the Portuguese coach said. "For them to worry about playing us."
Monaco has come a long way since July 27 last year — when it started in the qualifying rounds with a trip to Istanbul. Monaco got past Fenerbahce and then beat Spanish side Villarreal to reach the group stages.
"It's not easy to play the Champions League and to try and win the French league at the same time," Jardim said of the domestic league leaders.
Mbappe and resurgent forward Radamel Falcao scored early goals to put immediate pressure on Dortmund, which trailed 3-2 from the first leg of the quarterfinal in Germany.
Attacking midfielder Marco Reus pulled one back in the 48th minute, but substitute Valere Germain added the third in the 81st minute to seal a 6-3 victory on aggregate. It was Monaco's 141st goal of an incredible season that has captured the imagination and made the rest of Europe take notice.
"We never tried to protect the result," Jardim said. "Because our DNA is to attack and to always try and score."
Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel accepted that his side fell short.
"We knew we needed a performance of the highest level to turn things around, but that wasn't the case," he said. "We made too many basic errors."
The home leg in Germany was overshadowed by an attack on the Dortmund team bus as it headed to the stadium. Prior to Wednesday's game, Dortmund's bus was held up by police at the team hotel and kickoff was briefly delayed.
"We wanted to leave at 7:15 p.m. Everyone was prepared and in the bus, but we couldn't move for 16 or 17 minutes," Tuchel said. "The police was there to escort us and we asked them why we couldn't move and they just said 'for safety reasons.' You can imagine that eight days after the attack that (this is) the worst thing that can happen."
On the pitch, Dortmund conceded after just three minutes.
Attack-minded left back Bernard Mendy — newly called up to the France team along with Mbappe — hit a fierce shot that goalkeeper Roman Burki spilled. Mbappe slotted the loose ball into the bottom left corner for his 22nd goal of a breakthrough season that has made the 18-year-old one of the brightest prospects in European football.
He had scored twice in the first leg and in both legs against Manchester City in the Round of 16.
Falcao's diving header, the 27th goal of his comeback season, made it 2-0 in the 17th minute.
Reus pulled one back when he turned in a right-wing cross from substitute Ousmane Dembele to offer some hope, before Germain sprinted through to send Stade Louis II crowd into raptures.
In the night's other match, Barcelona went out after drawing 0-0 at home to Juventus, which won the first leg 3-0.
After the drama of last week's attack, this was a welcome return to euphoric, attacking football. Both sets of fans united in a touching show of support beforehand, singing the famed football anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone" as they raised scarves together.
As Dortmund kept pushing forward in numbers, Monaco was stretched down both flanks but, equally, Dortmund was increasingly exposed to slick counterattacking.
Falcao lofted a shot narrowly over after breaking down the right in the 65th and Mbappe had a low shot saved moments later from a similar position.
Dembele and Reus continued to threaten, while Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko headed over and Mbappe failed to control a good pass as the chances came thick and fast on a chilly night.
Germain put the result beyond doubt as he broke through down the right and slotted the ball under Burki's body.
The whole Monaco bench rushed to jump on him: a symbolic image of Monaco's teamwork.
"All the players played at a high level," Jardim said. "It wasn't a day for speaking about individuals."