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Monaco entered the knockout stage after topping Group C, ahead of Deportivo La Coruna.

The group game included an incredible 8-3 thrashing of Deportivo in Monaco. Dado Prso, in for the injured Fernando Morientes, marked his 29th birthday with four sensational goals.

Monaco came out of the UEFA goldfish bowl with Lokomotiv Moscow in the second round. The big freeze almost caught them out. Fortunately Morientes headed a late goal after Lokomotiv failed to clear Jerome Rothen’s free-kick and they lost ‘only’ 2-1.

“That’s better than I expected at one stage,” said coach Didier Deschamps. “One goal will be enough in the second leg.”

Prso duly scored it, on the hour, after missing a first-half penalty.

In the quarter-finals Monaco, their domestic form fading and with skipper Ludovic Giuly hampered by injury, drew Real Madrid.

Deschamps’ fears appeared well-founded when Madrid led 4-1 with nine minutes to go. Then up stepped Morientes with another priceless late goal Ð against the club who loaned him to Monaco last August.

The return entered French football legend. Raul extended Madrid’s overall lead, and Giuly’s equaliser in first-half stoppage time seemed of minimal importance.

But, as Giuly walked off frowning, so Zinedine Zidane muttered: “Haven’t you worked it out? We’re absolutely shattered.”

Morientes, who had provided the assist for Giuly’s goal, headed Monaco’s second shortly after the restart. Then Hugo Ibarra forged up the right and his cross-shot was flicked home by Giuly. At 5-5 on aggregate, Monaco had triumphed on away goals.

“Now we don’t need to fear anyone,” said Giuly.

Not even Chelsea. Monaco hit back from 1-0 down, despite having Akis Zikos sent off, to beat west London’s big spenders 3-1 in the first leg in Monte Carlo.

Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri was blamed for misjudging his use of substitutes. But that was to underrate Monaco’s resilience.

Back at Stamford Bridge Ranieri and co made the same mistake again. Chelsea went 2-0 up only to concede a spirit-deflating and controversial goal to Ibarra, who appeared to handle before scoring, right on half-time. Morientes drove in a superb equaliser to secure a 2-2 draw.

“It’s a fantastic achievement,” said Deschamps. “We have worked hard and put in a lot of quality performances along the way.”
By Keir Radnedge

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