When Aaron Ramsey drove in our second goal in the 79th minute, I was thinking about just how much I didn't want to write this particular review and the review that I wanted to write would be dependant on the following 11+ minutes of the game. We had enough time on the clock but we lost some of our intensity and failed to show enough spark to carve open the Monaco defence for the final time.
The game did not start as I imagined it would, I expected us to fly out of the traps and push them back but that is not how it played out. The home side started the stronger of the two teams but we quickly managed to wrestle back possession of the ball and we dominated from then on.
Oliver Giroud lashed in our opening goal on his right foot after some good play from Danny Welbeck. We had missed a few half chances before that so the goal was very much welcomed.
I thought we had lacked quality from wide areas throughout the game, apart from the occasions when Mesut Özil pulled into those parts of the pitch to sweep passes into players around the box. We missed the Oxlade-Chamberlain of Old Trafford and we certainly missed the Alexis Sanchez from the first half of the season. In fact, I would go as far as to say that he was the only player who could have won the game for us last night at that point in the game. The problem is this Alexis is off the boil completely. Perhaps all his chasing defenders all season has burnt him out during this second half of the campaign but last night he became a hindrance at times rather than the player we needed to turn to. On another day he might have won us a penalty when he clashed with a Monaco defender in the penalty box. I've seen the replay and I'm still not sure what the correct decision was so it is difficult to fault the referee too much in this instance.
It feels churlish to criticise our top scorer and arguably player of the season but attacks broke down around him too many times when we needed to keep the ball. He needs a recharging of batteries so I hope he gets a rest for Newcastle on the weekend. Strangely enough it is Mesut Özil who is receiving all the criticism today even though in my opinion he was our most creative player on the night. His pass to Monreal for Ramsey's goal being a case in point. Substitute Theo Walcott who had very little space to work in managed to hit the post from a Monreal cut back, the Monaco defender panicked and kicked straight to Ramsey who was himself unlucky to find himself on the bench put us 2-0 up with just over ten minutes to go.
I thought Laurent Koscielny was one of our bright spots on the night, he was often the man halting the Monaco attacks on his own. He also broke out from the back to keep the pressure on the French team. That is two solid games from him in a row and it is great to have him back to his best.
In the end we ran out of puff and did not have that one moment of brilliance to score the third. It is obvious that the tie was lost when Oxlade-Chamberlain slipped and Monaco raced down the pitch to score the 3rd but we knew that at the time, I'm struggling to get worked up over that now as I vented more than enough after the 1st leg. Our form since then has been marvelous, winning the next 5 games in a row (6 now) and there is plenty to play for, like another FA cup for example.
So I hope the players can take the performance into the Newcastle game and leave the disappointment behind them.