Falcao scores twice as leader Monaco beats Nice 3-0

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PARIS (AP) Benjamin Mendy delivered two assists and Falcao scored twice as leader Monaco moved three points clear in the French league with a 3-0 defeat of Nice in their top-of-the-table clash on Saturday.

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After struggling to get past the solid defense put up by the visitors, Monaco played with more fluidity in the second half and won the midfield fight at Stade Louis II.

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Falcao’s second strike was Monaco’s 100th goal this season in 38 matches in all competitions. Valere Germain scored the opener for Leonardo Jardim’s team, which has scored 68 league goals in 23 games, the best attacking record in the five major European leagues.

With its convincing win Monaco made another strong statement in the race for the French title and also avenged a 4-0 loss to Nice in the corresponding fixture back in September.

Defending champion Paris Saint-Germain can move level on points with second-placed Nice if it beat Dijon later Saturday.

Monaco had only a couple of chances in a tight first half. Nice played more aggressively after the interval but the move backfired and Monaco made the most of its many openings.

Nice goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale easily stopped a 20-meter shot from Bernardo Silva in the 10th minute and was decisive in denying Kamil Glik’s effort three minutes later.

The visitors enjoyed a good spell after the half-hour and came close to scoring when Valentin Eysseric cut in from the right to connect with a good cross from Alassane Plea, only to miss the target by a couple of inches with a left-footed shot.

Silva had the half’s best chance in the 36th minute after Falco recovered the ball in the visitors’ camp and set up the Portugal midfielder, whose powerful shot was parried away by Cardinale.

Germain, who was on loan at Nice last season, ended a fine collective move down the left flank to put the hosts in front in the 47th. The Monaco forward headed home from close range after connecting with Mendy’s precise cross. Germain refrained from celebrating his goal against his former club.

Mendy was a constant threat with his crosses from the left and the French defender delivered a second assist at the hour mark, crafting a low pass in the box for Falcao. The Colombia striker latched onto it and doubled the home side lead, then put the game to bed in the 81st minute from Thomas Lemar’s cutback pass with his 14th league goal.