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10-man Monaco mauls Chelsea

MONACO, APRIL 20. Strikers Fernando Morientes and Shabani Nonda both scored late goals as 10-man Monaco beat Chelsea 3-1 in a pulsating Champions League semifinal first leg at Stade Louis II.

Spanish international Morientes fired a powerful shot into the roof of the net in the 77th minute after collecting a pass from captain Ludovic Giuly, and substitute Nonda scored with his first touch seven minutes from time.

``We lost the plot,'' Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri said. ``Everyone wanted to run with the ball. I played three strikers. It's my fault. I take the blame.''

``I think we have only 20 percent against Monaco,'' he said. ``Monaco is used to scoring. Only the best Chelsea performance (of the season) can help us now.''

Croatia striker Dado Prso put Monaco ahead in the 16th minute, before Hernan Crespo levelled for Chelsea six minutes later. Monaco midfielder Andreas Zikos was red carded in the second-half for appearing to punch Chelsea's Claude Makelele in the back of the head.

With both teams looking to reach the Champions League final for the first time, the return leg at Stamford Bridge in two weeks time sees Monaco with the advantage as it looks to become the first French side since Marseille in 1993 to win the competition.

``Dreaming is part of human nature. We are one step away from the dream,'' Monaco coach Didier Deschamps said. ``We must show in 15 days that we deserve to be in the final. But I am very proud of my players.''

Monaco created a good chance in the 10th minute, when Lucas Bernardi released Giuly down the right and his cross was met by Morientes. But his shot was blocked by Chelsea defender Marcel Desailly.

Attacking Chelsea down both flanks, Monaco pressured strongly in the opening stages and deserved to take the lead after Chelsea defender Mario Melchiot was cautioned for a crude foul on left winger Jerome Rothen.

From Rothen's swerving freekick Prso rose majestically to send a looping header over goalkeeper Marco Ambrosio and into the top left corner for his seventh Champions League goal this campaign.

Chelsea replied when Scott Parker found space down the right and swept the ball into Eidur Gudjohnsen. The striker was unable to aim a shot, but the ball fell kindly to Argentina striker Crespo who coolly smashed it past Flavio Roma.

Moments later, midfielder Frank Lampard tackled Rothen and crossed for Crespo, whose outstretched foot clipped the ball narrowly over.

Although Chelsea controlled much of the first-half, Monaco counterattacked well and when Giuly burst through in the 34th minute only a fine tackle stopped him shooting.

Morientes, for all his attacking skill, worked furiously to help his teammates combat the threat of Chelsea's dominant midfield and often harried players into making mistakes.

Deschamps praised his star forward.

``I think all the players show up in big matches. Morientes knows what the Champions League is all about. He goes way beyond his duty and is an example for others to look up to.''

Monaco started the second-half strongly with Julien Rodriguez's header saved by Ambrosio and Morientes' spectacular scissor-kick cleared off the line by Desailly.

Swiss referee Urs Meier then sent off Zikos in the 52nd minute for aiming a blow at Makelele after the two had tussled on the ground. Gudjohnsen then twice went close with a shot and a header.

Deschamps tried to combat the threat by replacing Prso with midfielder Edouard Cisse, while Ranieri brought on striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for Melchiot.

Despite being a man down, Monaco still attacked strongly, with Giuly in particular causing mayhem for Chelsea's defence with his elusive running.

``My players always carry an attacking threat,'' Deschamps said. ``Even with 10 men I was confident we could defend properly, so it's important to keep attacking.''

Giuly then released Morientes down the right side and he composed himself before slotting into the top corner for his eighth goal of the campaign.

With Chelsea reeling, Nonda ran onto Rothen's pass and steered an angled shot inside the near post just seconds after coming off the bench.

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