Layvin Kurzawa starred as last season’s Champions League quarter-finalists Monaco took a big step towards the play-off round of this season’s Champions League on Tuesday with a 3-1 win away at Swiss side Young Boys in their third qualifying round first leg clash. Robin van Persie also featured for Fenerbahce.
The 22-year-old French defender blocked a goalbound effort by Japanese striker Yuya Kubo on the line in the 62nd minute and then two minutes later scored at the other end with a sublime volley, from Fabinho’s cross, to set Monaco on their way.
This sparked a crazy flurry where the three other goals came in the next 11 minutes.
They doubled their lead through Argentinian Guido Carillo, who had come on only a minute before for another new recruit 21-year-old Portuguese forward Ivan Cavaleiro, as he headed home from playmaker Joao Moutinho’s 72nd minute freekick.
Young Boys — whose former PSG striker Guillaume Hoarau should have done better with two free headers — briefly got back into the match as veteran midfielder Raphael Nuzolo reduced the deficit with 16 minutes remaining.
However, their hopes were extinguished within a minute as Croatian Mario Pasalic, on loan from English champions Chelsea, scored with a fierce strike from the edge of the penalty area.
While the second leg should be a formality for Monaco a tougher task lies ahead with the likes of Manchester United and Valencia potential opponents in the final qualifying round which leads for the winners to the lucrative group stage.
However, coach Leonardo Jardim will have taken heart how his much changed line-up from last season — veteran Dimitar Berbatov, and younger stars such as Geoffrey Kondogbia and Belgian international winger Yannick Ferreira Carrasco having left — coped with a relatively challenging away clash.
Elsewhere another side who radically changed their squad during the close season Fenerbahce fared less well as they were held 0-0 at home in Istanbul by Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk, who are no strangers to the group stages.
Despite fielding several of their big name signings such as Portuguese winger Nani the Turkish side were unable to unlock the Ukrainian defence.
Dutch striker Robin van Persie — signed amidst much fanfare earlier this month from Manchester United — came on for the last 20 odd minutes replacing Moussa Sow but contributed little.
Fenerbahce, who have returned to European competition after serving a two year ban for their involvement in match-fixing, will have it all to do next week in the second leg to keep alive their hopes of a return to the group stage of the Champions League for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
Action continues on Wednesday with the highlight Scottish champions Celtic — who failed to make the group stages last season — at home to Azerbaijan side Qarabag.