The pressure was on AS Monaco ahead of kick-off, with Saint Etienne winning 1-0 at Montpellier earlier to snatch third place, temporarily pushing the Monegasques back into fourth. But it was always going to take more than that to throw Leonardo Jardim's men off their stride…
Storming down the left
Despite Antoine Kombaouré springing a tactical surprise by switching to a 5-3-2 formation and drafting in Boulenger as a last-minute replacement for Gbamin, the visitors - skippered by Geoffrey Kondogbia for the day - were able to impose themselves on proceedings right from kick-off. They fashioned the first chance of the game in the 7th minute, as Kurzawa sent a lovely ball into the area for Moutinho, who swivelled and chested down for Martial. The French forward seized on the opportunity but aimed his shot wide of Riou's post. Kurzawa was enjoying a lively start and firing in a succession of crosses, but the first real threat came from the man playing just in front of him down the flank: Yannick Carrasco. From a free kick wide out on the left, the Belgian delivered the ball into the box. Nobody in red and white was able to get anything on it, but the ball bounced and Riou was forced to tip it onto the bar. The referee missed the Lens goalkeeper's touch and awarded a goal kick.
Monegasque dominance, Monegasque goals
In the 33rd minute, an excellent cross from Kurzawa was met by Moutinho at the far post. The Portuguese took advantage of a favourable bounce and attempted to slot past Riou, but the Lens stopper turned his effort behind for a corner. A lacklustre Lens side finally summoned up a response in the 35th minute as Nomenjanahary drove down the right and laid the ball off to Touzghar, whose cross was met acrobatically by Chavarria in the box, with the ball flying narrowly off target…
Martial becomes the club's top scorer
The Red & Whites were unperturbed by that alert and within a minute, Carrasco beat Lemoigne 25 yards out, drove straight towards goal and took advantage of a fortunate rebound off Ba to go on and drill the ball past Riou and high into the net! Lens responded to falling behind immediately through Chavarria, who controlled the ball superbly and got the better of Abdennour but missed the target from the edge of the area. The Red & Whites claimed a second goal just before half-time. From a lightning counter-attack, Carrasco sent Martial through on goal with a fine pass from his own half, and the French U21 international sprinted clear to beat Riou and put daylight between the sides. In doing so, Martial became the club's top scorer in Ligue 1 with a total of eight goals to his name.
Seventh heaven for Silva
The second half started in entertaining fashion. On 49 minutes, Martial was fouled twice in quick succession, first just outside and then inside the penalty area, but curiously the referee waved play on. The replays clearly showed both incidents were fouls. The tempo of the game then eased off, until Anthony Martial went on an overlapping run and served up the ball for Bernardo Silva six yards out. The Portuguese calmly slotted past Riou to bag his seventh goal of the season!
No late scares for AS Monaco
Three goals to the good, Jardim's men were content to see out the remainder of the game serenely and were never troubled by Lens, who are now relegated to Ligue 2. Following their elimination from the UEFA Champions League, AS Monaco responded in the best possible way. Their next game is at the Stade Louis-II next Sunday, when they will take on Toulouse!