MBAPPE THE TORMENTOR

Stars in Nantes whip­ping as Monaco re­store lead

New Straits Times - - Sport -

TEENAGE sen­sa­tion Kylian Mbappe pun­ished Nantes with a first-half brace as Monaco strolled to a 4-0 vic­tory on Sun­day to re­build their three­p­oint cush­ion at the top of Ligue 1.

Mbappe volleyed in the opener at the Stade Louis II with just four min­utes gone and headed in his se­cond in first-half stop­page time af­ter Valere Ger­main had dou­bled Monaco’s lead.

Fabinho tucked away his sixth penalty of the sea­son on 59 min­utes to seal a fifth win in six out­ings for Monaco, who ex­tended their un­beaten league run to 10 matches.

Leonardo Jardim’s free-flow­ing side are show­ing no sign of slow­ing down as a three-team ti­tle race looks poised to go down to the wire with Monaco chas­ing a first league crown since 2000.

“I con­tinue to learn from the great play­ers here and I am dis­cov­er­ing all the time,” said Mbappe.

Radamel Fal­cao was left out the Monaco squad with mus­cle fa­tigue, but Bernardo Silva and Thomas Le­mar re­turned to the line-up af­ter com­ing off the bench in Wednes­day’s thrilling 43 ex­tra-time vic­tory at Mar­seille in the last 16 of the French Cup.

Silva’s weav­ing runs were im­me­di­ately a threat to Nantes and Mbappe prof­ited from a stroke of good luck to guide the ball beyond Maxime Dupe when a shot from the Por­tuguese in­ter­na­tional was de­flected into his path.

Brazil­ian left-back Lima forced a smart stop out of Monaco goal­keeper Dani­jel Suba­sic with a crisply-struck free-kick, but Nantes paid heav­ily for a pair de­fen­sive er­rors as the hosts killed off the game just be­fore the in­ter­val.

A poor clear­ing header al­lowed Kamil Glik to drill across goal, with Ger­main bring­ing the ball down on his chest and stab­bing past Dupe for his ninth goal of the sea­son.

Silva then pinched pos­ses­sion back from Felipe Pardo in­side the Nantes half and his curl­ing cross was glanced in by Mbappe as the 18-year-old net­ted for the eighth time in his last seven ap­pear­ances.

Nantes com­pounded their prob­lems when a rash chal­lenge from Koffi Djidji on Le­mar handed Monaco a penalty, with spot­kick spe­cial­ist Fabinho con­vert­ing for his sev­enth goal of the cam­paign.

Mbappe had a chance to com­plete his hat-trick af­ter a sub­lime first touch en­abled him to spin away from the de­fence, but Dupe dived sharply to his right to palm the ball to safety.

Both Mbappe and Silva were then re­placed with Jardim al­ready look­ing ahead to Fri­day’s clash at home to Bordeaux, as well as the re­turn leg of their Cham­pi­ons League last 16 tie against Manch­ester City on March 15.

Dim­itri Payet struck with a clever im­pro­vised fin­ish as Mar­seille re­cov­ered from last week’s heavy de­feat by arch ri­vals PSG by thrash­ing bot­tom side Lori­ent 4-1 in Brit­tany to move up to sixth place.

Cen­tre-back Rolando headed Mar­seille into a sixth-minute lead, while Payet grabbed the vis­i­tors’ se­cond mid­way through the first half.

Flo­rian Thau­vin added a third on 53 min­utes be­fore Mor­gan San­son turned home his first goal for the club since ar­riv­ing from Mont­pel­lier in Jan­uary, with Cameroon in­ter­na­tional Ben­jamin Moukandjo net­ting Lori­ent’s con­so­la­tion.

Lille goal­keeper Vin­cent Enyeama saved a late Martin Braith­waite to earn his side a 1-1 draw at Toulouse af­ter Yas­sine Ben­zia can­celled out Christopher Jul­lien’s first-half strike for the home side.

Reign­ing cham­pi­ons PSG and Nice both stayed in pur­suit of Monaco fol­low­ing re­spec­tive 1-0 wins over Nancy and Di­jon on Satur­day.

Edin­son Ca­vani scored his league-lead­ing 27th goal from the spot as PSG laboured past Nancy at the Parc des Princes, while Wy­lan Cy­prien’s calm fin­ish steered Nice to a vi­tal win at Di­jon.

REUTERS PIC

Monaco's Kylian Mbappe scored twice against Nantes in the 4-0 win on Sun­day.

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