PARIS (AP) — In his ruthlessly pragmatic way, Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim demands one final effort from his players.
Even though the hard work has been done — Monaco is within touching distance of raising the French league trophy after routing Lille 4-0 on Sunday night — Jardim does not want his players easing off for a split second.
Monaco’s win kept it three points ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, with a vastly superior goal difference and a game in hand.
Defending champion PSG kept its razor-thin hopes alive with a 5-0 win away to Saint-Etienne — but needs to win its final game against Caen by a huge margin and hope Monaco gets thrashed in its last two matches to stand any chance.
Monaco can seal a first title since 2000 and an eighth overall on Wednesday night just by drawing against lackluster Saint-Etienne at home.
“We ask our fans to come on Wednesday to support the players. We need to get the point we need and not wait until the last day,” Jardim said. “I respect football too much. I’m not here for a laugh — I’m asking my players for one last effort.”
Message received, loud and clear.
“As long as we don’t have the trophy in our hands we can’t celebrate,” Monaco forward Valere Germain said.
PSG coach Unai Emery pretty much conceded the title.
“Even though it’s not mathematically certain, Monaco should be champion. Congratulations,” he said. “We improved in the second half of the season, but it wasn’t enough given the great job Monaco did.”
Monaco has netted 153 goals in all competitions, boasts a goal difference + 17 better than PSG’s in the league, and needs only one more goal to surpass PSG’s league tally of 102 from last year.
Radamel Falcao scored twice on Sunday, with attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva and a late own goal securing another emphatic win.
Striker Edinson Cavani got two for PSG to reach 35 league goals, while Brazilian winger Lucas also netted twice and Germany winger Julian Draxler completed the scoring.
It was a sad farewell to fans for Saint-Etienne coach Christophe Galtier, taking charge of his 359th game and his last one at home before leaving at the end of the season.
Over at Stade Louis II, Falcao headed in Thomas Lemar’s cross from the left in the sixth minute to reach 20 league goals for the fourth time in his career. Last season, he got just one for Premier League Chelsea.
The second goal came on the stroke of halftime.
Teen forward Kylian Mbappe showed tremendous pace to surge past defender Franck Beria and then return a pass for Silva to thump home. Normally such a reserved character, Jardim jumped off the bench and pumped his fist vigorously as he shuffled along the touchline.
The 18-year-old Mbappe turned provider again midway through the second half with a wonderful cushioned pass that Falcao volleyed home for his 30th goal in all competitions.
“We have a great collective strength,” Monaco left back Benjamin Mendy said “You can only enjoy yourself when you’re in this team.”
NICE 0, ANGERS 2
With third place already guaranteed, this was an inconsequential loss.
Nice slipped to its fourth defeat of the season as midfielder Cheikh Ndoye and striker Karl Toko Ekambi scored.
BORDEAUX 1, MARSEILLE 1
Even though this was only one point for Marseille, it was a huge result in the race for next season’s Europa League.
Marseille is in fifth place, one point above Bordeaux, and with a comfortable-looking home game against 19th-placed Bastia next Saturday.
Uruguay striker Diego Rolan put Bordeaux ahead after two minutes.
Striker Bafetimbi Gomis struck his 19th league goal of the campaign on the hour mark after great work from winger Florian Thauvin.
Fittingly, they have been Marseille’s two best players this season.
MONTPELLIER 1, LYON 3
How Lyon will miss Alexandre Lacazette if he’s sold this summer.
Rated at around 55 million euros ($60 million), he scored twice to take his tally to 26 league goals and he also set up Nabil Fekir.
Lacazette needs two goals to both beat his career best and reach 100 league goals for Lyon, which could be a fitting farewell.
Nantes was in 19th place when Portuguese coach Sergio Conceicao took charge in December.
After a resounding 4-1 win against Guingamp — with striker Emiliano Sala scoring twice — Nantes is seventh.
Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima saved Andy Delort’s late penalty as Metz drew 1-1 with mid-table Toulouse.
An extraordinary flying header from striker Giovanni Sio — who was at shoulder height of the defender when he nodded into the top corner —helped ninth-placed Rennes win 1-0 away to Caen and push the Normandy side into 17th.
Dijon climbed above Caen on goal difference and into 16th after beating last-placed Nancy 2-0 at home, with midfielder Frederic Sammaritano scoring and creating.
Bastia beat 18th-placed Lorient 2-0 at home, with veteran midfielder Gael Danic scoring with a brilliant lob from near the halfway line.