PARIS (AP) — Colombia winger James Rodriguez showed how to cope without striker Radamel Falcao by scoring two clinical goals as Monaco won 2-0 at Bastia to remain five points behind French league leader Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday.
Falcao is out for months as he recovers from a serious knee injury, and Monaco signed former Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov as cover. But with Berbatov out with a minor knee injury, Rodriguez stepped up to take on the scoring duties.
"James Rodriguez played well and he's an important player for us, but this was a win for the team," Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri said. "For me, this was an intelligent win."
Ranieri has played down Monaco's title hopes throughout the season.
"You all want to see Monaco fighting for the title but it's not easy," he said. "It will be hard to catch PSG because they're very good in the Champions League and the (French) league. We'll do our best."
Rodriguez's first goal, on the stroke of halftime, was a superb free kick that rocketed in before goalkeeper Jean-Louis Leca could even move, and his second in the 77th minute came after a superb counterattack. Rodriguez ran from the halfway line to finish emphatically and take his league tally this season to five.
"I'm happy to score twice, but we all played well. It was an important win for us," Rodriguez said through an interpreter. "We still dream of winning the league, we'll keep going and do everything we can to be ready."
Bastia striker Djibril Cisse was taken off midway through the second half and looked angrily at coach Frederic Hantz as he replaced him with Wahbi Khazri. But it made little difference as Bastia struggled to create chances.
"It wasn't even close, we played against a much better team than us," said Bastia defender Sebastien Squillaci, a former Monaco player. "We did what we could and we gave everything. There's nothing to be ashamed of."
PSG was barely troubled when it beat Valenciennes 3-0 on Friday, with top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic netting his 19th league goal and 32nd overall. In his second season, he has 67 goals in total, more than he has managed with any club during a career that has seen him play for Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan and Barcelona.
Also, Reims climbed provisionally up to sixth place after beating Bordeaux 1-0 thanks to Nicolas De Preville's second-half goal.
In other games, it was: Lorient 1, Toulouse 3; Nice 0, Nantes 0; Rennes 2, Montpellier 2, and Sochaux 1, Guingamp 0.
Lorient midfielder Alain Traore was sent off midway through the first half but it took the lead in the 41st through defender Wesley Lautoa, only for forward Wissam Ben Yedder to equalize for Toulouse in the 60th. Right back Serge Aurier and forward Martin Braithwaite added further goals.
Sweden forward Ola Toivonen continued his good form with two goals but Souleymane Camara's 90th-minute goal earned Montpellier a point, while Zambia defender Stoppila Sunzu's goal gave Sochaux hope in its relegation scrap.
In Sunday's games, third-place Lille travels to struggling Evian, fourth-place Saint-Etienne faces fifth-place Marseille, and Lyon hosts last-place Ajaccio.