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Henry’s Monaco draws 1-1 with Vieira’s Nice in French league

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PARIS (AP) Old friends Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira had to split the points as Monaco drew 1-1 with French Riviera rival Nice on Wednesday in a scrappy match featuring three video reviews.

Winger Allan Saint-Maximin put Nice ahead in the 30th minute and 17-year-old defender Benoit Badiashile equalized shortly after halftime, becoming the youngest scorer in the French top flight this season. Badiashile’s header from a corner was deemed to have crossed the line by the use of goal-line technology.

[MORE: Ligue 1 scores, schedule]

Henry and Vieira are in their first seasons coaching in France, but they go way back and hugged warmly before kickoff.

Living next to each other in London, they blossomed with Arsenal and were part of the famed “Invincibles” side which went a whole season unbeaten in the Premier League. The Frenchmen also won the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 2000, as well as playing together in the 2006 World Cup final.

Having started their illustrious careers as teenagers on the French Riviera – Henry with Monaco and Vieira with Cannes – they have come full circle as coaches.

Monaco had chances through Aleksandr Golovin and Rony Lopes, only for Nice to strike against the run of play following a sloppy mistake from Youssef Ait Bennasser. After he gave the ball away in midfield, Saint-Maximin took it off him easily and shrugged off defender Jemerson before shooting confidently past goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.

The goal was awarded before being checked and confirmed by referee Benoit Bastien using VAR. Moments before the interval, he consulted VAR again to send off Nice striker Ihsan Sacko for a late challenge on defender Benjamin Heinrichs.

“There’s a lot of frustration and questions about the decisions. The red card is very harsh,” Vieira said. “It wasn’t a dangerous action and it had a negative impact on us.”

Bastien used VAR for the third time to award a penalty in the 75th, ruling that Badiashile impeded right back Youcef Atal when images suggested Atal initiated contact with Badiashile before tumbling down.

Benaglio guessed correctly to keep out Saint-Maximim’s spot kick. Monaco almost won it near the end when Radamel Falcao hit the post with a curling effort.

“A point isn’t enough for us, but we could have been sat here talking about a defeat,” Henry said. “I have no opinion about the VAR, those are their decisions. Diego saved the penalty – so much the better for us.”

Monaco has not won at home this season and is 19th – only one point ahead of last-place Guingamp, which beat Rennes 2-1 at home.

OTHER MATCHES

VAR also played a key role elsewhere as Saint-Etienne equalized with a penalty in a 2-1 home win against Marseille.

Referee Antony Gautier awarded the penalty in the 56th after goalkeeper Steve Mandanda upended forward Wahbi Khazri.

Gautier then changed his mind after the linesman signaled Khazri was offside when receiving the pass, but further confusion ensued as he then consulted VAR and re-awarded the penalty, which was confidently tucked away by Khazri.

There was no debating Khazri’s late winner, struck ferociously from 20 meters past Mandanda. It was his 12th league goal of the season and leapfrogged Saint-Etienne over Lyon into third place ahead of their local derby on Sunday.

Netherlands midfielder Kevin Strootman headed Marseille ahead early on from Florian Thauvin‘s excellent cross. The defeat increases the pressure on ninth-place Marseille and its coach Rudi Garcia after a string of poor performances have left fans disgruntled and angry.

In other matches, forwards Moussa Dembele and Nabil Fekir netted late on as Lyon rallied to draw 2-2 at Toulouse.

Nimes moved into 11th spot after winning 1-0 at home to Nantes.

Ligue 1: Fabregas nearly the hero on Monaco debut

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PARIS (AP) — Cesc Fabregas almost had a dream debut for Monaco in the French league only for teammate Youri Tielemans to waste a late golden chance in a 1-1 draw at Marseille on Sunday.

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

Despite only signing from Premier League Chelsea on Friday, Fabregas went straight into the team and added poise and assurance to Monaco’s midfield.

In the first minute of injury time, Fabregas cleverly chipped the ball over the Marseille defense, only for Tielemans to drag his shot wide.

[ MORE: Messi scores 400th goal in route; the Madrids hold serve ]

Watching from the sideline, Monaco coach Thierry Henry could barely contain his frustration. Still, it was an important point for 19th-placed Monaco in its relegation fight.

Next up for Henry’s Monaco is eighth-placed Nice at home on Wednesday, a match which pits Henry against his former Arsenal and France teammate Patrick Vieira, who is now coach of Nice. Both Henry and Vieira were also teammates of Fabregas when he started his Arsenal career late in 2003.

Battle brewing for Batshuayi after Valencia loan ends

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Michy Batshuayi appears destined to spend his entire career being loaned out, by Chelsea, to various clubs around Europe.

[ MORE: What we learned in the Premier League, Week 22 ]

Since arriving at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2016, Batshuayi has played more than 50 largely forgettable games for his parent club, an electric 14 games for Borussia Dortmund, and an altogether disastrous 23 games for Valencia. Now, after just five months, his time in La Liga is set to end prematurely.

Valencia sporting director Mateu Alemany confirmed this week that Batshuayi’s season-long loan would be cut short on the heels of some very critical comments made by manager Marcelino. Following a recent loss to Sporting Gijon in the Copa del Rey, Marcelino held nothing back in tearing into Batshuayi — quotes from Sky Sports:

“I think we have to get in some strikers. I’ve clearly run out of patience with certain individuals.

“We could have gone in front in the first minute. It was the best opportunity I have seen us create for six months. If you can’t even get a shot in on target you are not fit to play in the Primera Liga for Valencia.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement or a glowing recommendation for future employment. Alas, Batshuayi isn’t expected to have any trouble finding a new club as a number of sides are desperate to land the 25-year-old Belgian for the rest of the season.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview: Litmus test time for Spurs, Man United ]

Everton would love to have him at Goodison Park, but given that they took Kurt Zouma on loan from Chelsea already this season, they would have to sign him on a permanent transfer. With that event seemingly unlikely, Thierry Henry’s Monaco is another option. Henry, who coached Batshuayi and the Belgium squad the last two years, confirmed interest while attempting to remain coy — quotes from Sky Sports:

“Michy? I know him, we rubbed shoulders with Belgium, he is a player who can be interesting. But again, nothing is done. You have to be patient. It’s important that players know the [league], though.”

Batshuayi, of course, knows the league after two seasons at Marseille prior to his move to Chelsea. Depending on which version of the player — the one with three goals in 23 appearances for Valencia, or the one with nine in 14 for Dortmund — arrives, someone is about to get a striker lacking in confidence or a star capable of singlehandedly changing the fortunes of an entire season.

Henry hopeful to land ex-Arsenal teammate Fabregas in January

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Maurizio Sarri has said he’s worried that Cesc Fabregas will leave Chelsea this summer, but might the 31-year-old midfielder depart earlier than that?

[ RECAP: Newcastle 0-2 Man Utd ]

L’Equipe reports that Fabregas could sign with a new team as early as next week, with AS Monaco ready to splash some January cash to reunite the midfielder with former teammate Thierry Henry.

Fabregas spent 2003-07 on the same pitch as Henry, who now manages Monaco. The Ligue 1 outfit is struggling mightily this year, and Henry needs veteran blood to steady his young group.

Crystal Palace’s Mamadou Sakho is also of reported interest to Henry, who signed Lyle Foster of South Africa’s Orlando Pirates to their second team on Wednesday.

Respite for struggling Monaco with win in French League Cup

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PARIS (AP) Giulian Biancone’s goal gave Thierry Henry’s struggling Monaco side a 1-0 win over second-division side Lorient in the French League Cup on Wednesday.

Monaco is second from the bottom in the French league and desperately needed a boost after eight defeats and just two wins in 12 games since Henry took over in mid-October.

The former Arsenal star has had to deal with a huge injury crisis, forcing him to pick teenagers with little experience, including the 18-year-old Biancone.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

Biancone, who made his debut at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League last month, fired a shot inside the left post in the 70th minute to send Monaco into the quarterfinals.

Also Wednesday, Dimitri Payet and Adil Rami missed penalties as Marseille crashed out in a 4-2 shootout loss at home to Strasbourg.

Patrick Vieira’s Nice also lost on penalties at home, 3-1 to the bottom team in the French league, Guingamp.

Second-division Le Havre upset Nimes 2-1, Rennes enjoyed a 2-1 win over visiting Nantes, and Bordeaux won 1-0 at Dijon.

Paris Saint-Germain, which won the domestic treble last season, scraped through with a late goal in a 2-1 win at second division Orleans on Tuesday.

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