By Michael Harrold at Manuel Ruíz de Lopera
A dramatic last-minute winner from Edu gave Real Betis Balompié the victory a rich attacking performance deserved against AS Monaco FC in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third round qualifier.
With seconds left in added time, Alberto Rivera threaded the ball to the on-rushing Brazilian midfielder who calmly slid his shot beyond the despairing dive of Flavio Roma. It was just reward for an exciting display that saw the Spanish side hit the crossbar three times and come close on numerous occasions.
Betis's Champions League debut started inauspiciously, leading scorer Ricardo Oliveira was injured on the eve of the match and a floodlight failure 15 minutes before kick-off threatened to further darken coach Llorenç Serra Ferrer's mood. And with the lights restored, it was Monaco who looked the brighter.
Pace and verve
On six minutes, Ernesto Chevantón teed up Emmanuel Adebayor but the striker shot wide. Monaco, two games into the Ligue 1 season, attacked with pace and verve while Betis, still two weeks away from the start of the Primera División campaign, looked disjointed. But in Joaquín Sánchez, hugging the right touchline, they had the guile to worry Monaco and it was the Spanish international who almost provided the breakthrough on 12 minutes.
His cross fell for Rivera but the midfielder missed the target. Rivera was Betis's sole new signing starting as Serra Ferrer kept faith with much of the eleven that had won him the Copa del Rey and finished fourth in Spain last season. And they soon found their stride. Fernando hit the crossbar with a dipping shot on 24 minutes and, seven minutes later, Marcos Assunção did the same from a 30-metre free-kick.
Assunção was running the midfield and all Betis were missing from some delightful approach play was a goal. They must have wondered if it would come when Edu missed with the goal at his mercy. Deschamps was without the suspended Gael Givët and in his absence only goalkeeper Roma held Betis at bay. Twice in the closing moments of the first half he pulled off stunning saves to deny Dani as Monaco somehow held on.
Ferrer's thoughts must have turned to the absent Oliveira when Dani headed over from six metres five minutes after the restart. That miss finally brought Monaco to life and they almost struck on the break. Rivera was back to clear Chenvantón's effort off the line but the warning was there for all to see.
Suddenly Betis looked tentative. Adebayor sent Doblas scrambling to save on 55 minutes and the visiting side began to impose themselves. Astonishingly Assunção again hit the bar with a free-kick in the closing stages but by then Monaco looked to have weathered the storm. That was until Edu struck with the last kick of the game to hand Betis a narrow advantage ahead of the second leg in France in a fortnight.
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