Week 34 review: Monaco close on title, Lorient out of the red
By S. Willis
Leaders AS Monaco took a big step towards the Ligue 1 title as a 2-1 win in Lyon kept them clear of Paris Saint-Germain on goal difference - with a match in hand - while FC Lorient continued their Great Escape with a 5-1 hammering of FC Metz.
It was a big week in AS Monaco's bid for a first Ligue 1 title since season 1999-00, with a tough trip to Lyon coming just after PSG had gone provisionally top, but Leonardo Jardim's men stepped up, with star strikers Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappé striking to claim a potentially decisive 2-1 win for the Champions League semi-finalists at the Parc OL.
"No-one can stop this team, and we're not putting limits on ourselves. The players want to go all the way. This team is unstoppable," said extremely proud AS Monaco vice-president Vadim Vasilyev, whose side remain top - on goal difference - with their postponed Week 31 clash against Saint-Etienne to be played on May 17, just four days before the final day of the season. "We hadn't even thought about the fact that Paris had gone provisionally in front. The title is within our grasp and our destiny is in our own hands, not Paris'. We're not thinking about the others."
Genesio: "I'm confident'
The loss was evidently a blow for OL, who slipped to fifth, but the Europa League semi-finalists have a match in hand following the abandonment of their Week 33 clash in Bastia and coach Bruno Genesio hasn’t lost faith in OL's chances of a fourth-placed finish.
"It was an important match for Monaco, and we had played two intense and emotional hours [going to extra-time and penalties against Besiktas in Istanbul] on Thursday," explained the OL boss, who is awaiting an LFP decision on whether the Bastia match will be replayed. "In terms of the table, this wasn't a good result for us. We have our destiny in our own hands and that's the most important thing. We need to battle right to the end as Bordeaux are doing well. But I'm confident."
PSG give their all
Paris Saint-Germain did their utmost to pile the pressure on Monaco, claiming an incredibly dramatic, last-gasp 3-2 win over Metz in their rescheduled Week 31 clash on Tuesday and then following up with a 2-0 win at home to Montpellier on Saturday, Edinson Cavani bagging his 31st Ligue 1 goal of the season and Angel Di Maria his sixth.
"We're playing really well and Monaco are too. We need to win our matches and then after that we'll have a look at how Monaco perform," said PSG boss Unai Emery, who knows it will take a slip-up or two on Monaco's part for his side to claim a fifth-straight Ligue 1 title. "Against Montpellier, it was an open match and that's good for football, good for the fans. Both teams wanted to attack."
Meanwhile, OGC Nice's hopes of catching the top two took a blow in Toulouse, Lucien Favre's side only able to clinch a 1-1 draw that left them six points adrift of Monaco and Paris' 80 points.
Lorient bring it
At the other end of the table, Lorient climbed out of the bottom three - for the first time since September - with a 5-1 hammering of fellow strugglers Metz. Bernard Casoni's men piled on the goals in a second-half blitz and now with four wins in their last five outings, sit in 16th place, two points clear of Dijon in 18th.
"In the position we're in it is not always easy to stay calm. When they equalised, we were vulnerable again. We soon sorted that out by starting the second half really well," said Les Merlus' coach, who saw Jimmy Cabot claim two goals and two assists after the break at the Stade du Moustoir. "With 34 points, we're not safe. We have to stay humble, whether we win or lose, and as of Monday we need to get our minds on [Week 35 opponents] Nantes."
Dijon slipped into the bottom three in Week 32 but showed plenty of promising signs as talismanic striker Loïs Diony's double spurred them to a 3-2 win over Angers, who couldn't get back on track after performing well in narrow defeats to Monaco and Paris in recent weeks.
Bordeaux steal a march
In the battle for Europe, OL's loss was Bordeaux's gain, Jocelyn Gourvennec's in-form side leapfrogging Les Gones into fourth place with a 2-0 win over bottom side Bastia, who had Abdelhamid El Kaoutari sent off (75') to compound their woes.
The Malcom- and Younousse Sankharé-powered win is all the more valuable as direct rivals Marseille, held to a 0-0 draw away to strugglers Nancy, failed to build on their 4-0 Week 33 win over Saint-Etienne and now trail Les Girondins by three points.
Saint-Etienne couldn't get back to winning ways, Edson Mexer cancelling out Robert Beric's opener for a 1-1 draw as Rennes travelled to the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, and now Christophe Galtier's men need to watch out for Nantes, who are just a point adrift in eight place following Yacine Bammou's brace in a 2-0 win in Caen.
Guingamp remain on the edge of the top half of the table despite falling to a 3-0 defeat away to Franck Passi's LOSC, who put an end to their three-match losing streak in all competitions as top scorer Nicolas De Préville (ten goals) bagged a brace.