Monaco take step closer to French title

Nancy’s French defender Joffrey Cuffaut (L) and Nancy’s French defender Julien Cétout (C) vie for the ball with Monaco’s French midfielder Fabinho during the French Ligue1 football match between Nancy (ASNL) and Monaco (ASM) on May 6, 2017 at Marcel Picot stadium in Tomblaine, eastern France. Jean Christophe VERHAEGEN / AFP

Player of the year nominee Bernardo Silva was on target as Monaco eased to a 3-0 win at Nancy on Saturday to leave them on the brink of a first French title since 2000.

Monaco had seen nearest challengers Paris Saint-Germain trounce bottom club Bastia 5-0 earlier in the day, but they responded in style with a comfortable victory at the Stade Marcel-Picot.

They are three points clear of defending champions PSG at the Ligue 1 summit, with a game in hand and a superior goal difference.

That means one win from their remaining three games will likely suffice for Leonardo Jardim’s side to take the trophy to the Mediterranean principality for the eighth time and first in 17 years.

This might have been an awkward trip for Monaco, three days before they try to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Juventus.

But Jardim has repeatedly stated that beating PSG to take the domestic crown is the main objective this season and almost all his main players started.

Tiemoue Bakayoko and teen sensation Kylian Mbappe dropped to the bench, with Joao Moutinho and Valere Germain coming in, and the latter created the third-minute opener.

He attempted a cross from wide on the right and the ball took a deflection off Tobias Badila that caught out goalkeeper Guy Roland Ndy Assembe at his near post.

Silva doubled their lead five minutes from half-time, heading in a Lemar cross at the end of a breakaway.

It was a seventh league goal of the season for the Portuguese winger, nominated for France’s player of the year award along with PSG duo Marco Verratti and Edinson Cavani and Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette.

Mbappe came on as a late substitute and set up Lemar to make it 3-0 with four minutes remaining, as Monaco made it nine straight league wins.

– Verratti controversy –

Earlier, a hotly contested Verratti goal helped PSG to a comfortable 5-0 win over bottom club Bastia.

Lucas Moura smashed a shot off the woodwork and then opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark, before the controversial moment when the hosts went 2-0 up.

With Blaise Matuidi down in the Bastia area and the ball having gone out for a throw, visiting goalkeeper Jean-Louis Leca went to check on the PSG midfielder.

However, the hosts took the throw quickly and Verratti smashed a shot into the roof of the net from the edge of the area, catching out Leca.

The goalkeeper ran to protest to the referee but was booked for his troubles.

The game did not come to life again until the last 20 minutes, with Goncalo Guedes setting up Cavani to make it 3-0 before the Uruguayan had a penalty saved.

Good work by substitute Giovani Lo Celso allowed Marquinhos to get the fourth, and after Lo Celso hit the bar with a volley, Cavani scored again following a defensive error.

It was Cavani’s 33rd league goal of a superb season, and his 47th in 47 games in all competitions.

“We still have the opportunity to catch Monaco. It is difficult but as long as the possibility is there we will keep going,” said coach Unai Emery, who said Verratti was not at fault at the disputed goal.

“He wasn’t looking at the position of the goalkeeper. The goalkeeper went to see Blaise but then went back into his goal. I don’t think it was against the spirit of fair play.”

Nice, nine points behind Monaco in third, visit Marseille on Sunday evening.

Bastia and Nancy lie in the automatic relegation spots with Dijon in the play-off place after losing 4-0 at Guingamp.

Dijon are two points adrift of Lorient, who drew 1-1 at home to Angers, while Caen are a point further clear as Ivan Santini’s goal secured a 1-0 win at Toulouse.

Metz are safe thanks to their 2-0 win at Lille.


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