Joao Moutinho gives Monaco win on Champions League return

 Monaco celebrated their return to the Champions League for the first time in a decade as they edged Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 in a hard-fought Group C encounter at the Stade Louis II on Tuesday.

AFP| Updated: Sep 17, 2014, 11:24 AM IST
Joao Moutinho gives Monaco win on Champions League return

Monaco: Monaco celebrated their return to the Champions League for the first time in a decade as they edged Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 in a hard-fought Group C encounter at the Stade Louis II on Tuesday.

It was Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim`s first home win since taking over from Claudio Ranieri after a difficult start to the season which has seen them win just once in Ligue 1, form that has left them in the relegation zone.

The goal on 61 minutes came against the run of play when a swift Monaco counter-attack produced the opener thanks to a piece of brilliance from former Leverkusen striker Dimitar Berbatov. 

The Bulgarian, who played with Leverkusen from 2001 to 2006, cleverly nodded the ball into the path of Portuguese midfielder Joao Moutinho, who steered past Bernd Leno to put the the 2004 finalists into the lead. 

The goal handed last season`s French league runners-up all three points while Russian leaders Zenit St Peterburg defeated Benfica 2-0 in Lisbon in the evening`s other game in Group C. 

The teams had only met once before in European competition when a Monaco side, including Fabien Barthez, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet, took four points off their German rivals during the 1997-98 group phase of the Champions League. 

Leverkusen, now coached by Roger Schmidt, who took over from former Liverpool defender Sami Hyypia, was pulling his hair out from the touchline as his side missed several first-half chances. 

Turkish international defender Omer Toprak was the first culprit when he fluffed a straightforward finish from just outside the six-yard box on 17 minutes and it got worse for Leverkusen 11 minutes from half-time with what should have been the opening goal. 

Karim Bellarabi broke in behind the Monaco back line only to somehow screw his attempted chip wide of Monaco `keeper Danijel Subasic and almost out for a throw-in. 

Gonzalo Castro continued the comedy of errors in front of goal for Leverkusen on the stroke of half-time when, from point blank range, he saw his volley deflected over by Layvin Kurzawa.

The visitors were then made to pay the price for their lack of a killer touch in front of goal when Moutinho struck for Monaco 16 minutes after the restart, and Leverkusen could not find a way back into the match.