REUTERS - Radamel Falcao struck a superb winner as Ligue 1 leaders Monaco came from behind to beat Dijon 2-1 at home on Saturday, while Nice remain firmly in the title hunt after downing Nancy 3-1 to guarantee a top-three finish.
Monaco trailed until the 69th minute following Cedric Varrault’s opener, but Nabil Dirar’s equaliser and a 25-metre free kick from substitute Falcao took them up to 77 points, three clear of Paris St Germain and four ahead of Nice.
Monaco were forced to play their midweek Champions League game a day late following the attack on the Borussia Dortmund bus ahead of their quarter-final first leg, and despite picking up a valuable 3-2 win on Wednesday, they struggled to muster the same intensity against Dijon.
”It’s difficult to play in the Champions League and Ligue 1,“ Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim told the club’s official website. ”We need to manage our players.
“All of our matches are going to be difficult,” Jardim added. “We need to win and we need all of our squad.”
The visitors took the lead in the 42nd minute when Danijel Subasic stopped Julio Tavares’s header on his goalline only for the quick-thinking Varrault to race in and tap home.
Dirar, however, equalised for the home side in the 69th minute when he reacted first and finished from close range after a fine Falcao free kick cannoned down off the woodwork, before the Colombian striker added a second from range nine minutes from time.
“Falcao is a goalscorer. He offers us offensive quality and efficiency,” the coach said. “It was a deserved victory.”
Earlier, Nice boosted their hopes of a first French title since 1959 when two second-half goals from the outstanding Jean Seri inspired them to come from behind to down Nancy.
Seri converted a penalty after the break and then scored late on as Lucien Favre’s side moved 19 points clear of fourth-placed Olympique Lyonnais, ensuring they will play in the Champions League next season.
It will be the first time they have played in the European Cup since 1959-60, although if they finish third in Ligue 1, they will have to enter in the qualifying rounds.
“The Champions League? Not yet,” Favre told reporters. “We still have to deal with the two preliminary rounds. That’s another story.”
Despite starting strongly, Nice’s defending let them down when Junior Dale capitalised on an error from Valentin Eysseric to open the scoring.
The home side were undeterred, equalising nine minutes later when Younes Belhanda’s magnificent through ball found Mickael Le Bihan, who span away from the defence and slotted calmly past Guy N‘Dy Assembe.
Injury-hit Nice went ahead in the 51st minute when the impressive Seri converted from the penalty spot after Dalbert was brought down and then sealed the win in the 84th minute with a sharp finish after a swift counter-attack.
Elsewhere, struggling Lorient ended their three-game winning streak when they were beaten 2-0 at Montpellier, while eighth-placed Guingamp downed Toulouse 2-1.
Reporting by Ed Dove; Editing by Ian Chadband and Toby Davis