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By Fergus O'Shea at the Riazor
AS Monaco FC secured their place in the UEFA Champions League knockout stages in fine style with an emphatic victory against RC Deportivo La Coruña to claim first place in Group A.
Didier Deschamps' side travelled to Spain knowing that only a victory would guarantee their progress, and three first-half goals, from Ernesto Chevantón, Gaël Givet and Javier Saviola, effectively settled the contest. Maicon and Emmanuel Adebayor added further goals in the second 45 minutes, ensuring Deportivo became the first side in Champions League history to end the group stage without scoring.
With Deportivo already eliminated from European competition, coach Javier Irureta opted to rest a number of key players, so Juan Carlos Valerón, Alberto Luque, Manuel Pablo García, Enrique Romero and José Molina were all rested. Deschamps was without Congolese striker Shabani Nonda with a torn thigh muscle so Chevantón started up front, while Jaroslav Plašil and defender Julien Rodriguez were also sidelined, so Lucas Bernardi and François Modesto came into the side. Sébastien Squillaci and Italian goalkeeper Flavio Roma passed fitness tests to start.
The visitors sought to impose themselves on the game from the start but, although Deportivo had only pride to play for, it was the Galician side who controlled much of the possession in the opening exchanges. Deportivo used their flanks to good effect, but despite several left-wing crosses from Pedro Munitis, failed to create any genuine goalscoring opportunities.
Monaco, however, were clinical when they carved out their first chance of the night. Strikers Saviola and Chevantón combined cleverly to devastating effect, an incisive little pass from the former setting the Uruguayan free inside the box and defenders Jorge Andrade, Joan Capdevila and Pablo Amo were mere spectators as the forward thrashed the ball past Gustavo Munúa.
Deportivo might have been level ten minutes later as Capdevila's brilliant cross picked out Walter Pandiani, but the striker put his free header from six metres out straight at Roma. The missed opportunity came back to haunt the home side moments later when Monaco scored their second and third goals in quick succession.
Monaco doubled their lead in the 37th minute as Depor failed to clear a corner and Monaco captain Givet reacted swiftest to loop a right-footed volley over Munúa's despairing dive. Two minutes later and with the Deportivo defence in disarray the last thing they needed was Saviola finding space enough to run through and bear down on goal. But, only two minutes later, the Argentinian forward ran 15 metres unopposed and calmly slotted beyond an exposed Deportivo goalkeeper to effectively settle the contest.
Nevertheless, Deportivo began the second half in brighter fashion, and almost pulled a goal back within two minutes. Defender Capdevila was once again the provider with a slick pass to Pandiani, but he was crowded out and his underhit shot was turned around the post by Roma.
Instead it was the visitors who struck again, as Chevantón's low corner to the near post was not dealt with and Brazilian defender Maicon poked in from close range after 55 minutes. The French side, who climbed to the summit of the section thanks to Liverpool FC's 3-1 win against Olympiacos CFP at Anfield, finished their group stage campaign with a flourish as substitute Adebayor collected Chevantón's pass and tapped into an empty net 14 minutes from time.
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