By Matthew Spiro in Monaco
AS Monaco FC coach Didier Deschamps described his team's performance as "super-human" after they knocked Real Madrid CF out of the UEFA Champions League, claiming they had written a new chapter in the history of French football.
'Beyond the limit'
Deschamps' team stunned the visitors by overturning a 4-2 first-leg deficit at the Stade Louis II, winning 3-1 on the night to qualify for a semi-final against Chelsea FC. An ecstatic Deschamps said he had never lost belief that his side would prevail but was nonetheless astounded by the character they showed. "It was quite simply an extraordinary performance from my team," he enthused. "They went beyond their limits both physically and mentally."
The Monaco coach believed his players were motivated by the media criticism they have received recently. "We're top of the league and in the semi-final of the Champions League," he said. "Yet the newspapers all say things are going badly at Monaco! We've never lost our belief.
Madrid came here thinking that they had the tie won, and nine times out of ten we would expect them to win. But sometimes in football the smaller club gets the better of the bigger club."
If Madrid were strong favourites before kick-off, there looked to be only one winner once Raúl González had extended their aggregate lead to 5-2 with the opening goal on 36 minutes. But Monaco replied on the stroke of half-time through captain Ludovic Giuly – a goal that Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz believed was the game's turning point. "It was the decisive moment in the tie," he argued. "It changed the mentality of both teams and in the second half we looked tired and started to make mistakes."
Monaco came out firing after the break and eventually ran out winners thanks to goals from Fernando Morientes and another from Giuly. A disconsolate Roberto Carlos was quick to congratulate Monaco and, in particular, Morientes, the striker on loan from Madrid who had already scored a vital goal at the Santiago Bernabéu. "
Fernando had a fantastic match tonight," said the Brazilian. "When he headed in his goal we knew that we were in trouble because Monaco had the momentum."
Roberto Carlos is now keen to focus his attention back to domestic matters. "The season does not stop here for us," he insisted. "Raúl has already told us that we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. We have got a championship to win and we have to make sure we do that – even if tonight we are sad."
Monaco, meanwhile, are left dreaming of a potential Champions League final, but before then they have to get past Deschamps' former club Chelsea. "It will be a special evening when I go back to Stamford Bridge because I still have a lot of friends there, such as Marcel Desailly," said the Monaco coach, who is confident his side can upset the west Londoners. "Everyone thought it would be Arsenal [FC] against Madrid," he said. "Chelsea have caused an upset too tonight and, while I respect them, we have no reason to fear them."
The Monaco coach, currently in his third season in management and enjoying his first European campaign, is delighted to have taken the club as far as the last four, but insists he now wants to see them lift a trophy. "We've beaten Madrid, now we have to round off the season with a prize," he said.
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