PARIS (AP) French champion Monaco got back to winning ways with a 2-0 home win against Caen on Saturday.
Monaco lost three and drew one of its previous four games in all competitions. But coach Leonardo Jardim’s side was largely in control against a Caen side that started brightly and faded after Keita Balde’s opening goal and first for Monaco.
“It was important to win, to get a bit of confidence back,” Jardim said. “We’ve been working hard and the players were very serious today.”
Captain Radamel Falcao scored his league-leading 13th from the penalty spot in the 59th, confidently sending goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre the wrong way.
The win moved second-place Monaco within three points of Paris Saint-Germain, having played one game more. Unbeaten PSG is away at bitter rival Marseille on Sunday.
Falcao’s partnership with teen star Kylian Mbappe was crucial to Monaco’s charge to the league title and the Champions League semifinals last season. Mbappe left to join PSG in a high-profile move — as did several other key players — but Falcao’s new partnership with the unselfish Balde looks a promising one.
“We’ve lost a few players and we need a bit of time, it’s been a bit difficult for us,” Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic said. “I hope we can stay at the top of the table and that the young players can shine. We have a lot of quality here.”
Balde has been sharp in his handful of appearances since joining from Lazio in the offseason, but mainly as a link player and a provider.
This time, the Senegal forward finished off the move as he ran onto Thomas Lemar’s perfectly weighted pass into his path, cut across a defender on the edge of the penalty area and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.
Lemar almost created another goal when his corner was headed against the crossbar by Brazilian defender Jemerson late in the first half.
Falcao put the game beyond doubt from the spot after Slovenian midfielder Jan Repas fouled attacking midfielder Rony Lopes.
After a tricky start to his tenure at Nantes, Italian coach Claudio Ranieri has turned things around.
Nantes beat Guingamp 2-1 at home to move up to third place, extending Ranieri’s unbeaten run to eight matches after losing the first two.
Nantes, which scored through defender Chidozie Awaziem and midfielder Abdoulaye Toure, is just two points behind Monaco.