Falcao keeps fortunate Monaco on title track

Radamel Falcao marked his first start in six weeks with the only goal of the game as Monaco cemented its position at the top of Ligue 1 with a 1-0 win at Angers.

Monaco's Radamel Falcao celebrates after scoring.   -  Reuters

Radamel Falcao marked his first start in six weeks with the only goal of the game as Monaco cemented its position at the top of Ligue 1 with a 1-0 win at Angers. Falcao's goal came just after the hour mark and against the run of play, and Monaco was holding on at the end against in-form opponent at the Stade Raymond Kopa.

The result extended the principality side’s run without defeat in the league to 13 matches and moved it four points clear at the top of the table with a game in hand on Nice, which won 2-1 at Lille on Friday. Defending champion Paris Saint-Germain - which hammered Monaco 4-1 in last weekend's League Cup final - can cut its lead back down to three points if it wins at home to Guingamp on Sunday evening.

For Monaco, it was the perfect preparation for its Champions League quarterfinal first leg away to Borussia Dortmund in Germany on Tuesday as it stays on course to win its first French title since Claude Puel's 2000 vintage. "It is always difficult to play away from home in the French league and more so in Angers. It is not by chance that we lost 3-0 here last year," said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim.

"We made some changes to the team, brought in tougher players, players who are better in the air, a bit more aggressive, so that we could go to war."

This always looked likely to be an awkward trip for Monaco against its fellow French Cup semifinalists, with Angers a big, strong and physical side which had been unbeaten at home since December. Jardim named Falcao in his starting line-up for the first time since late February with the Colombian looking to prove his fitness before the Dortmund clash.

Teen sensation Kylian Mbappe made way but Falcao and Monaco offered little going forward in the first half. Indeed it was lucky not to be behind at the interval. Cameroon forward Karl Toko Ekambi pounced on a loose ball just outside the Monaco box only to fire wide, while goalkeeper Danijel Subasic made a crucial intervention in front of Famara Diedhiou.

The goal arrived in the 61st minute, Nabil Dirar setting up Falcao for a low right-foot finish from 12 yards for his 17th of the season in the league and his 25th all told. Angers did not deserve to find itself behind but it passed up a glorious chance to level late on when Thomas Mangani's free-kick was headed on by Nicolas Pepe for Ismael Traore to turn the ball against the far post. Subasic prevented Diedhiou from scoring the follow-up.

"There is no team in the Champions League that plays like that," added Jardim, looking ahead to the Dortmund trip. "Against Dortmund, the problem will not be possession, it will be having only two days to recover before we play in an international competition."

Mario Balotelli scored both goals for Nice in its win at Lille as it came from behind for the fourth game running and extended its unbeaten run to nine games. Lucien Favre's side is now guaranteed European football next season and Champions League football is a probability with Lyon - which hosts Lorient later - 16 points behind it in fourth.

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