Former Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov rolled back the years to score as Monaco pulled off a memorable 3-1 victory over Arsenal in their Champions League last 16 first leg match on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old — who played for Tottenham from 2006-08 — struck the French side’s second goal as the visitors made it an extremely unhappy reunion for former coach Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
It meant that none of the three English sides left in the competition have won their first leg games — Chelsea having been held 1-1 by defending French champions Paris Saint Germain last week.
The Gunners — who had not conceded a goal in three previous visits from French sides in the competition — face a huge challenge when they travel to Monaco next month if they are to reach the last eight for the first time since 2010.
Wenger, who spent seven seasons at Monaco before going to Japan, said his side had lost their heads.
“The heart took over the head and that doesn’t work. Mentally we were not sharp enough to get into the game and we paid for it,” said Wenger.
His Monaco counterpart Leonardo Jardim, who produced a celebratory run down the touchline to rival that of his Portuguese compatriot Jose Mourinho when Porto knocked out Manchester United at Old Trafford in the last 16 in 2004, said it was a remarkable night for his team.
“Nobody really thought this result was possible but we achieved it,” said Jardim, whose achievement is even greater as he lost the star duo of James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao when they left for Real Madrid and Manchester United respectively before the season started.
For Berbatov, a much-maligned figure at times during his spell in England with Spurs and Manchester United, it was an especially happy moment.
“We are good, a good team and we wanted to win more than them and were were fighting all over the pitch and we scored more goals,” said the Bulgarian.
– ‘Wenger’s night ruined’ –
Monaco joined Bayern Munich and Manchester United in putting three past Arsenal in the competition’s history.
Monaco monarch Prince Albert II — who was at the match — was in a jovial mood afterwards.
“It pains me for (Wenger), I think we ruined his evening!” he told BeIn Sport.
The night’s other match was an ill-tempered affair which saw one player sent off and eight other players booked.
However, German side Bayer Leverkusen gave themselves a glimmer of hope of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time as they beat last season’s finalists Atletico Madrid 1-0.
Hakan Calhanoglu scored the only goal and become the first player to score against Atletico in theChampions League since Kostas Mitroglou did for Olympiakos on September 16.
“I think we were clearly the better team and therefore we deserved the win,” said Calhanoglu.
“I gave it all I had for the goal, but we have to play just as well in the return leg as we did today and then we have a good chance.”
The visitors ended the game with 10 men when Tiago was sent off for a second bookable offence.
Bayer coach Roger Schmidt’s boldness in aligning an attacking formation was rewarded and he was extremely proud of his players for delivering.
“We can be extremely satisfied with this result,” said Schmidt, who was guiding Bayer to their first win in their last eight knockout matches in the competition.
“The team was exceptional and now we have a real chance of reaching the quarter-finals.”
Atletico coach Diego Simeone admitted his side faced a tough battle but looked on the bright side.
“Leverkusen could perhaps have killed the game off with a second goal but we still have a good chance at home,” said Simeone.
“They put us under pressure and we have made things complicated for ourselves.” – Agence France-Presse