AS Monaco’s 3-0 thumping of SC Bastia at the Stade Louis II on Wednesday night ensured that Paris Saint-Germain’s first stay at the summit of Ligue 1 was a short one.
Radamel Falcao’s double and an Emmanuel Riviere strike moved Les Monegasques two points clear of PSG once again after Laurent Blanc’s side had ground out a narrow 1-0 win at Valenciennes FC.
The defending champions’ Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani both played an important role in the successful extraction of three points from the Stade du Hainaut.
It has been a good midweek for Le Championnat’s three biggest star names.
Here is how they fared individually.
Going into the home clash with Bastia, Falcao must have taken on board some of the criticism that he has only been scoring the majority of his goals through penalties of late.
90 minutes later, the Colombian had two goals to show for his effort against the Corsicans and neither of them came from the spot.
The 27-year-old now has seven goals from seven matches, and his first double in French football combined two of the South American’s most deadly elements.
In the 41st minute, he doubled the hosts’ advantage following Riviere’s opener by timing his run into space perfectly, neutralising the Bastia offside trap, before slamming the ball past Mickael Landreau.
The second was far more predatory though. Following some excellent work from Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, El Tigre was on hand to steer the ball into the top corner after the young Belgian’s pass had found its way to the marksman.
In one game Falcao illustrated his ability to forage for himself by scoring the more difficult chances, and his habit of being in the right place at the right time.
That talent has allowed him to accumulate the sheer number of goals that he has to his name, earning him the impressive statistic of having scored 100 goals in just 126 European league matches.
3-0 it finished, but Falcao will not be the sole subject of the headlines. Emmanuel Riviere scored his sixth goal of the season to sit just one strike behind his teammate in Ligue 1’s top scoring ranks (stats via Ligue1.com).
It was a different type of match for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his PSG side at Valenciennes.
Having taken over the captaincy from Thiago Silva, who is out injured for the next few weeks, the Swede needed to lead by example. Blanc’s side were looking to bounce back from a draw with Falcao’s Monaco last Sunday.
The goal scorer on Sunday at the Parc des Princes, Ibra turned provider by laying on Edinson Cavani’s sole strike on the verge of half time.
Picking up the ball in midfield, Ibrahimovic advanced with the ball. Waiting patiently for the chance to thread a perfect pass, he eventually did so into the feet of strike partner Cavani who finished low across the goalkeeper.
It may have been the only pass between the two made in the first 45 minutes, but it was decisive one.
Like in earlier games this season, Ibrahimovic has demonstrated his ability to take on the weight of the creative burden at PSG.
The assist was his fourth decisive pass of the season, but his second for Cavani (stats via Ligue1.com).
Otherwise, it was a relatively quiet night for the 31-year-old as his side struggled to kill off the game and were made to sweat late on for their narrow winning margin.
While the pressure was off of Ibrahimovic going into the Valenciennes clash, it was very much on Cavani after failing to find the net against Monaco.
Nothing less than a goal would do in northern France, and he duly obliged with pretty much his only chance of the match.
Although Ibrahimovic’s pass was exquisite, it still left El Matador with plenty of work to do. His smart turn, with little space, gave him enough room to steer a low shot across goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau and into the bottom corner.
The relief in the Urguayan’s celebration was clear to see, but Cavani and PSG would not go on to add to that goal.
Instead, the team produced an unimaginative second half performance that starved the 26-year-old of the service necessary to add to his tally.
The final score was 1-0, meaning that Cavani now has three goals from five starts in Ligue 1 (stats via Ligue1.com).
However, both he and Ibrahimovic will need to improve before Saturday’s home clash with Toulouse if they are to continue building on a promising, but slow-forming, relationship.
With a double-header of games this week, all three of Le Championnat’s finest will be back in action again over the weekend.
Ibrahimovic, Cavani and PSG entertain Toulouse FC, welcoming on-loan midfielder Clement Chantome back to the Parc des Princes.
In-form Danish attacker Martin Braithwaite will also be an opponent; he has three goals from five starts so far this season.
Monaco face a tricky visit to Stade de Reims on Sunday in the week’s final fixture. Falcao will be looking to continue his impressive average of one goal per game this term.