"Great teamwork" was the key for AS Monaco FC coach Claudio Ranieri after his side moved back to within three points of Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain in their first game since injury robbed the Principality side of star striker Radamel Falcao.
A serious cruciate injury for the Colombian international has placed a question mark over Monaco's ability to compete for top spot in the French table. However, Les Princes gave the perfect response on the pitch on Sunday, beating Olympique de Marseille 2-0 at home.
Valère Germain scored his first Ligue 1 goal for the club four minutes before the break and Emmanuel Rivière turned in a Geoffrey Kondogbia cross after the restart to seal the result – made all the more valuable by the fact that Paris had been held to a 1-1 draw at EA Guingamp on Saturday.
Monaco visit tenth-placed FC Lorient next and then play host to Paris on 9 February – that latter game is already on everyone's minds. "From now on, everything is possible," Rivière said. "We have a strong team and Paris have to come here – it will be a key game." The Martinique-born striker's tally of nine for the season is dwarfed by Zlatan Ibrahimović's 17 league goals for Paris, but – Falcao or no Falcao – the 23-year-old is buzzing. "Now we believe in our ability," he said. "Me and Valère showed that we can do well in up front."
Previously in Rivière and Falcao's shadow, Marseille-born Germain has plenty to prove, but his typically stylish strike ("not a powerful shot, but out of the goalkeeper's reach," in his own words) was a boost for the 23-year-old, who scored 14 times for Monaco in Ligue 2 last season. "He did a good job," said Ranieri. "But our great teamwork was key. We played a compact game and created a bunch of chances." However, he has not changed his view on the title race, saying Paris "have a more experienced and better team – they will be champions, but we'll try to hassle them".
They are certainly starting to nettle Laurent Blanc's side, who came close to enduring a second successive loss for the first time since December 2011 on Saturday. Alex's header snatchec them a 1-1 draw after Mustapha Yatabaré had put their Breton hosts in front. "Once again, we conceded from a set piece," Blanc seethed. "We need to work on this, but I'm happy that the team responded well to get a point."
With UEFA Champions League games to come next month, Paris are being stretched – Monaco can only hope that cracks will begin to show as the spring goes on.
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