Monaco ensured that Paris Saint-Germain’s lead of Ligue 1 will be no bigger than it was at the beginning of the weekend as they defeated Bastia 2-0 at Furiani on Saturday evening.
In response to PSG’s comfortable 3-0 win over Valenciennes on Friday evening, Claudio Ranieri’s men claimed a hard-fought victory courtesy of a goal in each half from Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez.
Although the home side enjoyed some pressure in the opening period, they failed to work visiting goalkeeper Danijel Subastic. The Corsicans were not without a threat, but following set pieces neither Djibril Cisse nor Francois Modesto could get their efforts on target when a goal was possible.
Monaco were not at their best but were still carving out good opportunities from which to profit. Valere Germain’s acrobatic early effort flew just over, while a header from adventurous left-back Layvin Kurzawa passed narrowly wide of the home goal after a pinpoint centre from James.
The South American has been in electric form of late and would play a decisive role late in the first half as he smashed home a direct free kick only minutes after a driving run had ended with a fierce shot that had narrowly cleared the bar.
With Bastia more enterprising at the beginning of the second half as they fought to find a way back into the match, James was simply invited to make use of the greater space he was afforded and did so brilliantly, setting up opportunities for Emmanuel Riviere and Germain that were ultimately squandered.
It was little surprise that when Monaco’s second goal did arrive, it was the former Porto man who was once again their inspiration. Leading a counterattack, a pass seemed the best option for James, but he simply drove on and smashed a shot past Jean-Louis Leca to put the visiting side out of sight.
With the game virtually killed off, the hosts at last mustered their first shot on goal through Ryad Boudebouz, yet this was comfortably dealt with by Subastic, who tipped it over the top and preserved a deserved cleansheet.
Victory means that Monaco are still only five points back of league leaders Paris Saint-Germain, whose European commitments may open up opportunities for the principality club to profit in future. With James in such hot form, their title challenge should not be written off yet, particularly after a relatively comfortable win at one of France’s most inhospitable venues.