By Matthew Spiro at Stade Louis II
Another lightning start helped AS Monaco FC secure their second successive victory in UEFA Champions League Group A, defeating Greek visitors Olympiacos CFP.
Javier Saviola and Ernesto Chevantón were both on target in the first ten minutes, but the home side were made to work hard for the points as Olympiacos mounted a determined comeback in the second half. Ioannis Okkas pulled a goal back on the hour but then missed a golden opportunity to level matters as Monaco survived a frantic finish.
Monaco coach Didier Deschamps sprang a surprise by naming four strikers in his team. Emmanuel Adebayor started in the centre forward position, with Mohamed Kallon just behind, Chevantón on the left and Saviola on the right. Olympiacos also adopted an attacking formation as Giovanni was handed a free role behind Okkas and Rivaldo, while Stylianos Venetidis replaced the suspended Anastasios Pantos at left-back.
The sizeable away support made their presence known at the match began noisily, but were silenced inside three minutes when Monaco opened the scoring. Saviola picked up Lucas Bernardi's pass midway inside the Olympiacos half and made a beeline for goal, jinking past three opponents before chipping delightfully over Antonios Nikopolidis and into the net via the underside of the crossbar.
It was the first goal Olympiacos had conceded in the Champions League but they let in another seven minutes later as Monaco scored a second, replicating the start they made to their last Europan game, against RC Deportivo La Coruña. Andreas Zikos found Chevantón on the left and the Uruguayan international cut inside Dimitrios Mavrogenidis and curled a sumptuous shot into the top corner from the edge of the penalty area.
The visitors slowly found some composure and produced their first effort on goal on 13 minutes, but Giovanni's volley was deflected wide. Rivaldo's influence on the game grew as he delivered a series of testing set pieces, but Monaco defended stoutly while continuing to threaten on the counterattack.
The first half ended in scrappy fashion with Monaco frequently caught offside, though Olympiacos went close to pulling a goal back when Giovanni's long-range effort dipped on to the roof of the net a minute before the break.
Miloš Maric replaced Grigorios Georgatos at half-time, and was soon posing problems on the left flank as Olympiacos came out fighting. Okkas carved open the visitors' best chance on 52 minutes, twisting past Maicon before shooting into the side-netting with just Roma to beat.
Deschamps responded by sending on midfield player Diego Pérez at the expense of Chevantón but Olympiacos were back in the game when Okkas scored on the hour. Pantelis Kafes picked up possession from Rivaldo before threading a perfectly-timed pass through for Okkas who waited for Roma to commit himself and rifling in.
Monaco looked to re-establish the two-goal cushion but Saviola's low shot was saved Nikopolidis. They were soon on the back foot, however, as Olympiacos, suddenly brimming with confidence, passed the ball with speed and accuracy and should have drawn level when Kafes broke clear and crossed for Okkas, who could only fire over from close range.
Monaco defended grimly in the closing stages, and were lucky not to concede an equaliser when Okkas' close-range header hit Farenrud on the goalline in a last-minute scramble. They held firm, however, and now lead the section with six points ahead of the reverse fixture on 3 November. Olympiacos are second, two points behind.
©UEFA.com 1998-2013. All rights reserved.