Free-scoring Monaco has earned widespread praise for exhilarating football that has produced 133 goals in all competitions this season.
On Saturday, the French league leader showed equally important fighting qualities to scrape a 1-0 win at Angers and stay in control of the title race.
Striker Radamel Falcao celebrated his return from four games out due to a hip injury with a sharply taken goal in the second half, his 25th of the season and one of the most important.
“To win this type of game you need mental strength, collective strength, and individual strength,” Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said.
Monaco has those qualities, and the pressure is on defending champion Paris Saint-Germain not to drop points on Sunday against Guingamp, which was the last team to beat PSG, 2-1 at home just before Christmas.
PSG needs to win to close the gap to three points, while Nice is four points behind Monaco having played one game more.
Falcao clearly lacked fitness, but when his chance came in the 61st minute, courtesy of a clever pass from midfielder Nabil Dirar, he buried it into the right corner for his 17th goal in 23 league games.
Falcao spent the past two seasons on loan to Manchester United and Chelsea, where he had a miserable time as he struggled to recover from a serious knee injury, and nearly went on loan again this season.
The club gave him another chance, and he has blossomed into a natural leader as captain. His commitment to the club was underlined by the way he jumped into Jardim’s arms at the final whistle.
Monaco lost the French League Cup final to PSG 4-1 last weekend and needed this win to maintain its momentum in a hard fought French title race.
This was Monaco’s 51st game of the season and tiredness is beginning to creep in. Jardim juggled players ahead of the Champions League quarterfinal against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday.
“We have two days to recover. It’s not easy but we’re playing in every competition,” said Jardim, whose side is also through to the French Cup semifinals.
Mid-table Angers rarely concedes goals at home and gave Monaco a hard time, going close to scoring in the first half and shutting down Monaco’s silky midfield with its relentless harrying.
LYON 1, LORIENT 4
In recent weeks, Lyon coach Bruno Genesio has been talking up his side’s chances of finishing third and securing a Champions League spot next season.
A thumping home defeat to one of the worst teams in the league may change his thinking.
Fourth-place Lyon took the lead through midfielder Corentin Tolisso’s 28th-minute goal, but then fell apart.
Striker Benjamin Moukandjo scored twice as Lorient boosted its hopes of avoiding relegation by climbing up to 18th spot.
In the chase for fourth place, Bordeaux closed the gap on Lyon to five points after a comfortable 3-0 home win against Metz.
Montpellier moved five points clear of the relegation zone by winning at Caen 2-0; Nancy stayed one place above Lorient after beating Rennes 3-0, while last-place Bastia kept its safety hopes alive by beating fellow struggler Dijon 2-1.
Toulouse hosts Marseille and Saint-Etienne faces Nantes in Sunday’s other games.