PARIS (AP) After two seasons of misery in England’s Premier League, striker Radamel Falcao is proving his worth again in France.
His first-half goal helped league leader Monaco on its way to a 3-0 home win against Rennes on Saturday.
Falcao pounced with a firm downward header from midfielder Adama Traore’s cross in the 42nd minute. He ran out of steam and was replaced with about 15 minutes left by Guido Carrillo, but he had done his bit by then.
Midfielder Thomas Lemar hit two late goals, the first set up by Carillo and the second a fine strike from 25 meters out.
Monaco, which has won seven straight games domestically and in Europe, is three points ahead of defending champion Paris Saint-Germain, which won 6-0 at Caen on Friday with striker Edinson Cavani scoring four.
Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim says PSG remains the favorite, but is confident Monaco will make things difficult at the top.
“The favorite for the title, which is a competition over a long period of time, is Paris,” Jardim said. “We’ve made a good start to the season, our team is more balanced. We have more options and this will even things in the league.”
Falcao joined Monaco in May 2013 after two prolific seasons with Atletico Madrid in a deal worth a staggering 60 million euros ($67 million). But a serious knee injury in a French Cup game at the start of 2014 cost him both pace and a place at the World Cup later that year.
He struggled for form and fitness in England, scoring once in 12 appearances with Chelsea and only four in 29 with Manchester United during spells on loan.
With two seasons left on his Monaco contract, he returned to the Principality side this season but with a major question mark as to whether he could be a success in France.
But Falcao made a strong start this season, scoring in both legs of a Champions League qualifier against Turkish side Fenerbahce, before limping off with a thigh injury in the return leg on Aug. 3.
He missed five games.
After coming on as a substitute against Lille last weekend, Falcao underlined his new-found commitment to the club by wearing the captain’s armband as Monaco won 2-1 at Tottenham in a Champions League group game on Wednesday.
Promoted Metz continued its encouraging start to the season and is in provisional third place after a 0-0 draw at Dijon.
Martin Braithwaite’s fourth goal in four games helped Toulouse beat Guingamp 2-1 and move up to sixth place, one spot behind Bordeaux after it slipped to a surprise 1-0 defeat at home to Angers.
Mariusz Stepinski grabbed his first goal since joining Nantes this summer in a 1-1 draw at promoted Nancy, and Lorient beat Lille 1-0 but the Brittany-based club remained last.
On Sunday, all eyes will be on Mario Balotelli when Nice travels to play Montpellier. The controversial striker scored twice on his league debut in a 3-2 win against Marseille last weekend, surprising most observers with his sharpness.
Also, Saint-Etienne hosts Bastia, and Marseille takes on Lyon, with no away fans permitted to travel after extremely violent confrontations between rival fans at a highway service station last season.