Week 36 review: Monaco bounce back, Metz first to drop
By S. Willis
Monaco had Moussa Sylla's brace on debut to thank for the win over SM Caen that kept them in the race for second as OL and OM both won; Metz punched their ticket for a Ligue 2 return after losing 2-1 at home to now-safe Angers.
Monaco hadn't managed a win in three outings coming into Sunday's trip to Normandy to face SM Caen, but Leonardo Jardim's men managed to halt their skid and reassert their claim on a Champions League finish - thanks to an extremely memorable debut from youth academy product Moussa Sylla, whose brace was enough to cancel out Ivan Santini's spectacular touch and shot.
"We needed points to be able to keep working towards our objective. Today, it's a double win," said Jardim, who had fielded a number of youth-team names in the injury absences of the likes of Radamel Falcao and Stevan Jovetic. "A win that gives us three points and a win for the youth of Monaco who, at 17 or 18 years old and with five or six of them, showed the maturity that - in the present and future - will stay in the squad and do Monaco proud."
Traoré takes over
The welcome win left Monaco third, a point shy of Lyon and a point clear of Marseille as both of the Olympiques continued strong runs of form. OL have had Memphis Depay's hot streak in front of goal - seven strikes in as many matches, with five assists to boot - recently, but on Sunday it was Bertrand Traoré who took centre stage. The Burkina Faso forward found the target for a fifth match in a row, contributing a double as OL ran out 3-0 winners at home to all-but relegated ESTAC Troyes.
"This season will have been magnificent if it finishes like we hope, which is with us on the podium at the end of the league season," said OL boss Bruno Genesio, whose side have now won eight in a row and are looking the favourites to stay in second and punch a ticket for the Champions League group stage. "We're the masters of our own destiny, but we can't afford to slacken off, because we have two tough league games to come."
Indeed, slacking off is not an option, especially considering that UEFA Europa League finalists Olympique de Marseille are also in red-hot form, with just one league defeat - to Lyon in Week 30 - since the beginning of March and a never-say-die attitude exemplified by skipper Dimitri Payet's performance to clinch a crucial 2-1 come-from-behind derby win over European hopefuls OGC Nice.
"Payet is the Dimitri we recruited and he makes the difference. He's always willing to take on his responsibilities and he lifts the team. He has the will to win and talent," said OM boss Rudi Garcia. "This was en excellent win because we were up against a very good side who took the lead early. Also, we were playing three days on from a European semi-final that went to extra time and cost us a lot of energy."
Amiens here to stay
Meanwhile champions Paris Saint-Germain were out to prepare well for Tuesday's Coupe de France final against third-division Les Herbiers - the capital club's chance to complete a domestic quadruple after stitching up the Trophée des Champions, the Coupe de la Ligue and Ligue 1 Conforama titles - but had to make do with a 2-2 draw with Amiens as Ivorian Moussa Konaté hit a double and cancelled out efforts from Edinson Cavani and Christopher Nkunku.
"The players have astounded us again. Every time the level goes up a notch, they find a way of responding to it. Even against Paris, we didn't renounce our game plan," said Amiens boss Christophe Pélissier after the result that secured his club's top-flight survival. "This was a great evening, and it has been a great season! My staff and I are proud to have put together a team from this group of players. We are almost disappointed that it is ending in two weeks."
Rennes steal a march on Sainté
Rennes took the upper hand in the race for fifth and a place in the UEFA Europa League with a 2-1 win over Strasbourg, Adrien Hunou's screamer leaving the promoted side just a point clear of the relegation play-off spot.
Saint-Etienne, whose 13-match unbeaten had them in fifth place coming into Week 36, came unstuck at home to Bordeaux. Gustavo Poyet's men showed their desire to end the season on a high - and maybe even sneak into Europe - with a 3-1 defeat of Les Verts, Brazilian star Malcom rounding out the scoring with a fine effort from distance.
Eighth-placed Montpellier spent some time in fifth place earlier in the season, and on Sunday Michael Der Zakarian's men showed the kind of form that got them there, handing Claudio Ranieri's Nantes side a 2-0 beating with goals right out of the top drawer.
Fresh from holding champions PSG to a 2-2 draw, feisty Guingamp got a taste of their own medicine as South Korea star Changhoon Kwon got his fourth in six matches to kick-start what turned into an impressive 3-1 win for the Burgundy side, who are now 12th, just a point shy of their opponents on the night.
Metz down as LOSC hopes spike
Meanwhile the battle to beat the drop intensified for some while it ended out right for FC Metz, whose 2-1 reverse at home to Angers left them eight points shy of the relegation play-off place with two matches left to play. The win saw Angers mathematically secure their survival just as LOSC took a huge step towards doing the same.
The troubled side from the north of France were all business faced with direct rivals Toulouse, and although it was locked at 2-2 with ten minutes to go, Nicolas Pépé pounced on a mistake from Toulouse 'keeper Alban Lafont to bag his 12th of the season - his ninth in 2018 - and take his side out of the bottom three for the first time since early January.
"I may fall asleep and dream that the championship is over, but there are two games left and nothing is done. A key victory? This is an important win, but the next two matches will be just as important," said dogged LOSC boss Christophe Galtier. "We won at the right time, but it's not enough yet. We're still in the fight. I might look back on this game if we survive, but for the moment there is still work to be done."