Mbappe fires Monaco clear at top


Paris (AFP) – Kylian Mbappe delivered another crucial goal for Monaco as the Ligue 1 leaders fought back to defeat Toulouse 3-1 on Saturday and move three points clear at the top.

Ola Toivonen struck immediately after half time as Toulouse threatened to derail Monaco’s title hopes at the Stade Louis II, but Kamil Glik equalised for the home side on 49 minutes.

Mbappe then struck his 14th league goal of a remarkable breakthrough season to fire Monaco ahead just past the hour before Thomas Lemar sealed an eighth victory in a row.

Monaco could take a huge stride towards landing a first French league crown since 2000 on Sunday, when third-placed Nice — unbeaten at home this season — host Paris Saint-Germain in second.

“We’ve just beaten the club points record in Ligue 1, that’s significant,” said Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim, as his team climbed up to 83 points, surpassing the previous mark of 80 from 2013-14.

“In the future perhaps we’ll talk about the 2016-17 team, but for me the most important thing is the next match.

“We’ve done some great things already, but we’re going to keep on working to go further.” 

The principality outfit will now turn their attention to Europe as Monaco prepare to welcome Juventus in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final next Wednesday.

“This match (against Toulouse) was very important. It was no less important than the match against Juve. I wouldn’t exchange this victory for a win against Juve,” added Jardim.

The Portuguese tactician restored a host of regulars — including Mbappe, Radamel Falcao and Bernardo Silva — to the Monaco side three days after fielding a youthful line-up in their midweek 5-0 French Cup semi-final defeat at PSG.

– Teenage stopper – 

But Toulouse, who beat Monaco 3-1 in the reverse fixture, nearly went in front when Christopher Jullien flashed a header narrowly wide of Danijel Subasic’s left-hand post.

Toulouse goalkeeper Alban Lafont saved from both Benjamin Mendy and Silva, before Toulouse captain Issa Diop produced a vital lunging block to deny Mbappe as Monaco gradually took control. 

Sweden international Toivonen had scored just once this year, but the striker capitalised on woeful defending as Jemerson fluffed an attempted clearance to steer the visitors into a surprise 46th-minute lead.

Monaco’s response was immediate and they were level just three minutes later as Polish centre-back Glik rose to power in a cross from Joao Moutinho — the defender notching his sixth goal this term.

An unmarked Toivonen spurned a chance to nod Toulouse ahead for a second time when he headed tamely at Subasic, while Lafont then pulled off a stunning reflex stop to thwart Falcao from close range.

But the 18-year-old was beaten far too easily at his near post on 64 minutes as Mbappe pulled the trigger from a tight angle, his 24th goal in all competitions handing Monaco the lead.

Lemar provided breathing space with Monaco’s third on 75 minutes, the midfielder calmly side-footing home on the half-volley from Nabil Dirar’s floated cross to end Toulouse’s resistance.

Falcao almost added a fourth as the Colombian barged his way into the box, only to hammer the ball against the base of the post.

Reigning champions PSG could return alongside Monaco at the summit on Sunday, but Lucien Favre’s Nice should prove a tough proposition having lost just twice this campaign.

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