Monaco ................ 3

St Johnstone ......... 0

ST JOHNSTONE manager Sandy Clark said before the match that the aim for his players was to keep this Uefa Cup tie alive for the second leg at McDiarmid Park in two weeks, and his players looked for a long spell to have done that on the Riviera.

However, on a hot night in the Louis II stadium, the strikeforce of Marco Simone and David Trezeguet finally broke the resistance of the men from Perth, who are now staring exit from the tournament in the face.

The millionaires of Monaco - some of these players earn around #200,000 a month - watched by Prince Rainier, must have thought they were never going to find a way past the brilliant Alan Main, who showed just why he is so highly-rated in Scotland.

Said Clark: ''For an hour we did what we had set out to do. We certainly didn't deserve to lose it 3-0, and the goals we lost were of our own making - that was frustrating. But our lads worked really hard and didn't deserve this.

''If we had scored when Miguel Simao got a chance it could have been very interesting, but it was a good save by their goalkeeper.''

Time and again the St Johnstone keeper foiled the French strikers, and he was well backed by stout defenders led by captain Jim Weir.

On Alan Main's performance, the manager added: ''He's a top-class keeper and has had lots of good games for us. That performance didn't surprise me, but I feel sorry for him that he played so well and lost three goals. The third goal leaves us with a mountain to climb, but anything is possible in football.''

Main himself was delighted with his display, although bitterly disappointed at the result ''To be honest, I've not had a good start to the season, he said. 'I've been a bit shaky and this was a big game for me. I'm delighted at the way I played, but I got off to a great start with a decent save in the first couple of minutes.

''I thought it was going to be one of those nights when I would save everything, but it wasn't to be.''

Another thrill for Main is the fact that Fabien Barthez, the Monaco goalkeeper who was a World Cup winner with France last year, presented the Saints' keeper with his jersey. Said Main: ''It was a great gesture. I'm going to get it framed and give it to my two sons, Nicholas and Josh.''

Monaco found the St Johnstone hard to crack and it wasn't until 68 minutes when Simone broke the deadlock with a drive from the edge of the penalty area, four minutes after that, Trezeguet was on target, and in the final minute, Simone capped an excellent performance by grabbing the third.

The 1000 or so fans who had made the trip from Scotland sang and cheered throughout the 90 minutes, and they gave a mighty ovation to their players as they trooped off, so disappointed that they could not sustain the stout work they displayed for most of the match.

Dasovic was ruled out because of flu, and McAnespie, who did so well in the last tie against Vaasas of Finland, was on from the start, but St Johnstone were almost in deep trouble after just four minutes when McQuillan was slack with a pass across the penalty area. Giuly fastened on to the ball and fired in a fierce drive that was blocked by keeper Main.

A minute later, the Saints goalkeeper did even better with a magnificent double save from two close-range headers, the first from Gallardo, and the second from Trezeguet. Not the type of start the Scots wanted.

Then in 10 minutes, a dreadful decision by an assistant referee almost cost St Johnstone. When the ball was lobbed forward, Trezeguet looked a couple of yards offside.

The flag stayed down, but the French striker was so surprised by the decision that he had failed to chase the ball and the alert Main raced from his line to gather it.

Main was in action again in the fourth minute of the second half when he dived to his left to hold a drive from Leonard, but a minute later St Johnstone should have taken the lead when a long ball was punted through the middle.

Simao outpaced Marquez but with only Barthez to beat, he

blasted the ball against the goalkeeper. If he had scored it might have given the team a tremendous lift, but it did show that the French could be vulnerable under pressure.

With 56 minutes gone, the French side made a change, with Rise replacing Lamouchi, and Monaco responded by winning a couple of corners, but the pressure was taken off when Main was fouled at the second one.

Lowndes replaced Thomas and Main continued his inspired form in 64 minutes when he produced a save of the highest class. This time Gallardo hit a 25-yard free kick towards the top left-hand corner, but the keeper launched himself to touch it past.

Bollan was then shown a yellow card for an over-robust tackle, and in 68 minutes, Main was finally beaten. Simone picked up the ball just outside the penalty area, and although surrounded by defenders he set a cracking low drive into

the net.

It was heartbreaking for Saints, but worse was to follow when Monaco scored again four minutes later. This time Simone was the chance-maker as he played a low ball in towards goal and Trezeguet slid in to put it over the line.

Saints made a second substit-ution in 79 minutes, McCluskey replacing Simao. Although the Scots tried to push forward in the hope of stealing an away goal, the tie it seemed had slipped away.

In the final minute of the match, Simone made sure of Monaco's place in the next round of the tournament by thumping a third goal.

AS Monaco - Barthez, Marquez, Christanval, Lamouchi, Giuly, Trezeguet, Gallardo, Simone, Leonard, Da Costa, Sagnol. Substitutes - Eloi, Legwinski, Farmerud, N'Diaye, Irles, Riise, Sylva.

St Johnstone - Main, McQuillen, Bollan, McAnespie, Weir, Griffin, Simao, O'Neil, Thomas, O'Halloran, Kane. Substitutes - Lowndes, McCluskey, McBride, O'Boyle, Grant, Lauchlan, Ferguson.

Referee - M Steinborn (Germany).