By Mike Collett
AS Monaco gave Arsenal a lesson in patient, counter-attacking football to win their Champions League last 16 first leg-match 3-1 in London on Wednesday and take a stranglehold on the tie.
French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia put the visitors ahead after 38 minutes when he crashed in a long-range shot that took a deflection off Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker, leaving goalkeeper David Ospina helpless.
Bulgarian veteran Dimitar Berbatov, continually jeered by the home fans because of his links with their arch-rivalsTottenham Hotspur, added the second after 53 minutes after a devastating Monaco counter-attack.
Arsenal pulled one back at the end when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain curled home from the edge of the area, but Monaco restored their two-goal advantage through Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco, who netted deep into stoppage time.
Arsenal wasted several chances with Olivier Giroud spurning four scoring opportunities to leave Arsenal with a mountain to climb in the second leg in Monaco on March 17.
Arsene Wenger’s current team flew out of the blocks against his old one, testing the resilience of Monaco’s rock-solid defence with a series of early raids.
Giroud went close with a header during Arsenal’s opening dominant spell, and then wasted three chances after the break before being substituted, but Monaco weathered the early storm, subduing both the crowd and the home players.
The visitors gradually played their way into the match with winger Anthony Martial and Joao Moutinho looking particularly dangerous, but it was still a surprise when they took the lead through Kondogbia’s long-range effort.
There was no real surprise, however, when they doubled their advantage as they were playing the better football when Berbatov’s powerful finish ended a swift break.
The hosts were given a lifeline in the first minute of stoppage time when Oxlade-Chamberlain pounced on a clearing header before curling home, but their celebrations were short-lived as Ferreira-Carrasco finished emphatically.