By Gregory Blachier
PARIS (Reuters) - Monaco's 1-1 draw at Paris St Germain on Sunday was another reminder of the spending power of Russian billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev and suggested the promoted team has the potential to challenge for the Ligue 1 title.
While Qatari-backed PSG dominated the clash between two of Europe's biggest spenders of the summer, Monaco came away from Parc des Princes still top of the standings, and the first visiting team to create so many chances at the venue in some time.
The roughly 170 million euros splashed out in transfers by Rybolovlev have already paid off with 14 points from six games and with Radamel Falcao the joint top scorer with five goals following his equaliser on Sunday.
Having fielded a younger team than PSG, including five players aged 21 or less in the starting lineup, the principality has plenty of reason for optimism.
Although PSG prevailed in the midfield due to the skilled Marco Verratti and solid performances from Thiago Motta and Blaise Matuidi, Monaco had their own weapons in wingers Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and Lucas Ocampos.
The two youngsters have formed efficient combinations with full backs and exciting prospects Fabinho and Layvin Kurzawa, and coach Claudio Ranieri boasted they had all learned a lot on Sunday.
"Before the game, I was curious, I wanted to see my players against great players," he told the post-match news conference.
"We are young and we have a long way ahead of us. But I'm satisfied. Our reaction (after the goal) was very good, we showed a lot of heart, of mental strength. This team has a good future."
Ranieri has scarcely won any silverware in his 25-year coaching career but has enjoyed a strong reputation for building teams and appears a natural fit for developing Monaco.
"Before the game, I told my players that the result was not important for us. I just wanted to see how they would behave with three games within a week," Ranieri said.
"I want my team to play more calmly, to try to keep the ball but it was hard, there was a lot of pressure, high on the pitch. So this game is good for us because at the end, it was still balanced and Monaco tried to win until the end."
PSG also fought hard to the finish and may feel frustrated with the outcome given the amount of chances they created, which included an injury-time header from Edinson Cavani, one of the two summer signings to start the match for PSG compared to Monaco's five.
The French champions dominated possession and coach Laurent Blanc, who took over from Carlo Ancelotti after the Italian joined Real Madrid, seems to have found his plan for PSG.
Having given several opportunities to Javier Pastore, Blanc dropped the inconsistent Argentine playmaker from the starting 11 in favour of playing three midfielders, and it paid off.
PSG had their best match of the season last weekend at Bordeaux with that format and the combination of Motta, Matuidi and Verratti in the midfield on Sunday once again showed it could be the key for a bright future.
The role of record signing Cavani, who failed to shine from his right wing on Sunday with Zlatan Ibrahimovic keeping the position up-front, remains an issue for Blanc, however.
"They could fit better together but I think we have to take care of the team's balance," Blanc said.
"I know that we have very good attacking players who can score a lot of goals but we have to find the right balance."
Two years into the Qatari project, PSG are still a work in progress and fast learners Monaco have warned they will not give them much time to find their pace.
(Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Ian Ransom)