Newly promoted AS Monaco went top of Ligue 1 after coming from behind to defeat Olympique de Marseille 2-1 in a thrilling encounter at the Stade Velodrome on Sunday.
The home side took the lead on the stroke of halftime when a Mathieu Valbuena corner from the left was headed home by Brazilian defender Lucas Mendes for his first goal in Ligue 1 on 43 minutes.
However, the lead was short-lived as Monaco took advantage of some sloppy Marseille defending to equalize through Colombian record signing Radamel Falcao, who crashed the ball home three minutes inside the second half for his third goal of the season.
Frenchman Emmanuel Riviere then stole the headlines with 11 minutes left as he latched onto a sweet through-ball from Portuguese midfielder Joao Moutinho, before slotting the ball past former France No. 1 Steve Mandanda. It was Riviere’s league-leading fifth goal of the season.
“I finished off the work,” Riviere said. “My speed is my greatest quality and I’m at 100 percent this season. It is my confidence which explains my success and the work I’ve put in. What is missing is finishing, but my ambition is to target the France national team.”
On a sour note for the 2004 UEFA Champions League finalists, Falcao came off with just over 15 minutes left with a right-ankle problem, although details of the injury remain uncertain.
Monaco take their early season tally to 10 points from four matches, while AS Saint-Etienne went joint second on nine with Marseille after defeating Girondins de Bordeaux 2-1 earlier in the day, while defending champions Paris Saint-Germain are on eight.
Saint-Etienne bounced back from their Europa League disappointment last week to beat Bordeaux 2-1 at home, while Montpellier Herault came back twice to force a 2-2 draw against fellow southerners OGC Nice.
At the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, where Saint-Etienne crashed out in the playoff round on Thursday last week, losing to Danish side Esbjerg fB 5-3 on aggregate, Sunday was another matter as goals from Romain Hamouma and captain Loic Perrin ensured there was no European hangover for Christophe Galtier’s side.
Meanwhile, OGC Nice played their last home match at the Stade Municipal du Ray before moving to a new venue, but despite leading 1-0 and 2-1, Claude Puel’s men were pegged back by the 2011-2012 champions in an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Galtier’s side made it three wins from four as their European disaster was put to one side and it put them right in the thick of the title race on nine points.
“I expected a reaction after our Europa League elimination and the best response was the one we produced on the pitch, even if there were times we suffered from fatigue and people playing out of position,” Galtier said. “It’s a good win, as we were coming off a big disappointment.”
Josuha Guilavogui was not in the hosts’ squad, with the France midfielder on the verge of a move to Atletico Madrid, but despite his absence Saint-Etienne went in front on eight minutes.
Banel Nicolita was afforded too much time on the right and his teasing cross was volleyed expertly past Bordeaux goalkeeper Cedric Carrasso by Hamouma.
The home side came close to a second just before halftime when Fabien Lemoine rattled the post, before Perrin went on to double their advantage five minutes after the break as he nodded in Benjamin Corgnet’s free-kick.
Ludovic Obraniak ensured the hosts were made to face a nervy finish as he cut the deficit with a thunderous strike in the 90th minute, but Saint-Etienne held on to record a third win in four outings and climb up to second.