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Keita Balde off mark in Monaco win

Paris (AFP) – Keita Balde netted his first goal since his big-money summer move to Monaco as the reigning French champions eased to a welcome 2-0 victory at home to Caen in Ligue 1 on Saturday.

Balde got the opener midway through the first half and the prolific Radamel Falcao added a penalty just before the hour mark as Monaco recorded a first win in five outings in all competitions.

The principality side, beaten 2-1 at home by Besiktas in the Champions League in midweek, are second in the Ligue 1 table, three points behind Paris Saint-Germain before the leaders go to Marseille on Sunday.

They are five points clear of Marseille, Saint-Etienne — beaten 1-0 at home by Montpellier on Friday — and Claudio Ranieri’s Nantes, who are in action at home to Guingamp later, a day after their Italian coach’s 66th birthday.

Senegal forward Balde, 22, bought late in the summer transfer window from Lazio on a five-year deal for a reported 30 million euros ($35.9 million) after impressing with 16 goals in the Italian top flight last season, despite making only 21 starts.

His signing was made to help fill the void left by Kylian Mbappe, the teenage sensation who was allowed to join PSG on an initial loan deal.

However, Balde has had a slow start to his Monaco career and it took him until the 21st minute of this game at the Stade Louis II to break his duck for Leonardo Jardim’s side.

He was played through by Thomas Lemar and held off his marker before slotting past Caen’s veteran goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre.

Monaco were unlucky not to add to their lead before the interval with Jemerson heading against the bar and Rony Lopes being denied by Vercoutre after being played in by Fabinho.

The Caen goalkeeper also beat away a Youri Tielemans volley but the second goal arrived in the 59th minute.

Lopes was fouled by Jan Repas just outside the penalty box but went to ground inside the area and the referee awarded a penalty.

Ligue 1 top scorer Falcao sent the goalkeeper the wrong way for his 13th goal of the campaign, condemning Caen to a defeat that leaves them ninth.

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