RC Deportivo La Coruña went top of UEFA Champions League Group C with a late 1-0 victory over previous leaders AS Monaco FC at the Riazor. Despite a host of chances, the French side could not find a way past José Molina, and they were made to pay when Diego Tristán struck the winner after 83 minutes.
Visitors on top
Monaco began much the brighter of the two sides, with Ludovic Giuly wasting little time getting forward in support of lone striker Fernando Morientes. Indeed, the inspirational captain had the first two chances of the contest, first shooting wide after good work from Jaroslav Plašil after six minutes, then having an attempt blocked by Enrique Romero four minutes later.
Victor probing away
Deportivo, surprised by the visitors' impressive start, slowly hauled themselves back into the game, with Víctor Sánchez probing away down the right wing and Alberto Luque looking for a chance to use his pace on the opposite flank.
The home team's first real chance came 15 minutes in when Juan Valerón produced a sublime piece of skill to create an opening down the left only to see Tristán side-foot wide from five metres out when it looked easier to score.
But Monaco continued to look the more likely to break the deadlock, and Giuly escaped down the left and sent in a teasing cross that only just evaded the on-rushing Morientes.
The game was swinging from end to end, but despite their endeavour both teams were let down by their play in the final third of the pitch, with a host of passes going astray and good crossing opportunities being wasted, much to the frustration of the crowd in the Riazor.
Patrice Evra surged down the left for Monaco just after the half-hour mark but his well-struck shot was straight at Molina and the experienced goalkeeper comfortably gathered. Four minutes before the break Morientes thought he had got his name on the scoresheet by toe-poking home from Evra's cross, but the offside flag went up and the goal was disallowed.
Monaco came out after the interval in exactly the same fashion and began to take the game to Deportivo straight away. Evra got away down the left again and his volleyed cross was headed over the bar by Morientes.
Valerón tried to spark his side into life with a brilliant run down the Deportivo left, twisting and turning past two defenders before being fouled on the corner of the penalty box, but Sergio wasted the free-kick by firing straight into the wall.
Monaco had two good chances to take the lead just after the hour, but once again they could not take advantage. First Sébastien Squillaci forced a good save from Molina with a header from Jérôme Rothen's cross, then Lucas Bernardi missed from close-range from the resulting corner.
Javier Irureta replaced ineffective duo Luque and Valerón with Fran and Walter Pandiani, and the Uruguayan striker went close with a header that ended up on the roof of the net after 67 minutes.
Deportivo were getting closer and closer, and Tristán flicked the ball goalwards after 71 minutes only to see Flavio Roma produce a magnificent save low to his right.
Late Tristan winner
But the home side were not to be denied, and Tristán sent Deportivo top of Group C seven minutes from time when he latched on to Sergio's pass and drilled a shot that hit Roma's legs and crawled over the line.