For 87 minutes, Radamel Falcao’s Ligue 1 debut for AS Monaco was a frustrating affair.
First, a stubborn Girondins de Bordeaux side refused to ship a goal after a bright start from Les Monegasques faded into mediocrity in the second half. Then, not long after coming on, Emmanuel Riviere put the Colombian in the shade with eight minutes remaining, breaking the hosts’ defence.
But five minutes later, Falcao provided everyone with the moment that they have been waiting for since the 27-year-old joined the newly promoted club: his first goal. There was touch of fortune in the build-up to both goals for Claudio Ranieri’s side, but there was nothing remotely lucky about the former Atletico Madrid man’s finish.
As arguably the best pure striker in world football at present, he showed exceptional awareness to continue moving toward the ball after Ludovic Lamine Sane’s interception had failed to clear the danger. Then, after taking a gentle touch, he poked it past Cedric Carrasso at the near post to complete a 2-0 win for the Principality outfit.
Having seen assumed title rivals Paris Saint-Germain and golden boot adversaries Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani stumble against Montpellier, Falcao took his only clear-cut chance of the game. Aside from that, the Colombian enjoyed little in the way of service.
Instead the two wide men, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Lucas Ocampos, were more involved. The Argentine in particular went close on a number of occasions. Monaco’s link-up play in the first half was not quite at its peak level, and Falcao was denied a scoring opportunity when James Rodriguez cut back after an excellent pass from Ocampos.
The predator also followed the goal up with a rasping shot from distance in the dying moments of the match. The effort was just inches away from a goal, but otherwise he was reduced to a few other shots from distance, though none were as ferocious. Aside from those fleeting moments, the Colombian international experienced a typical introduction to French football.
Francis Gillot’s Bordeaux were dogged in defence and refused to give Falcao, Rodriguez, Ferreira Carrasco or Ocampos the time and space to create anything substantial, and clear chances were at a premium.
The goals, when they came, both had an element of chance involved. Both times a Girondins defender got to the ball first, but unfortunately their fumbled interceptions were punished on each occasion. Substitute Riviere, hardly known for being prolific, netted the first before Falcao did the business to give Monaco an early win back in Ligue 1 at the first time of asking.
However, the 2-0 score line flattered Les Monegasques, who ran out of steam and had little to offer going forward for large parts of the match. Bordeaux didn’t pose much of a threat either, missing their best chance of the match before Monaco netted the first; and it was that profligacy which contributed to the generous winning margin.
Well-equipped up top with Falcao flanked by Ferreira Carrasco and Ocampos with Rodriguez playing behind in the No. 10 role, Ranieri’s side still missed a bit of impetus. That will no doubt change when Portuguese schemer Joao Moutinho, an unused substitute in Bordeaux, joins the lineup.
Communication is also key, and that is not quite there yet.
Returning to the Rodriguez chance where he tried to square it for Falcao, those sorts of chances will be put away by the clinical South American with more familiarity from playing together. In a few matches, he will be in all the right positions to find the net on a weekly basis, but he was still only a few steps behind the chance that his compatriot snatched at the time.
Considering how difficult Ligue 1 debuts can be, Falcao’s was a smooth one. He scored his only real chance of the match and took only three touches inside the penalty area. Impressive stuff. Having made a gentle return to the top flight after two years away, now Monaco and Ligue 1 will expect more of the same as the team starts to grow around him.
With the pressure to get that first win and first goal already off Falcao’s shoulders, the Principality outfit can settle down and concentrate on putting together a strong early run of form while the spotlight is on title rivals PSG.
Falcao: one. Ibrahimovic and Cavani: nil.