- Associated Press - Sunday, January 15, 2017

PARIS (AP) - Free-scoring Monaco moved to the top of the French league on goal difference by crushing Marseille 4-1 Sunday, tearing the home side apart with lightning counterattacks that took its season’s tally to 60 league goals in 20 games.

No other side in Europe’s top five leagues has scored as many times as Monaco, which plays in a league often known for its tight defenses. This was the eighth time this season Monaco has scored at least four goals, with four of those matches away.

“We wanted to put in a big performance tonight,” Monaco forward Valere Germain said. “We have quality players and we know we can do something special this season.”

Nice, which drew 0-0 at home to Metz earlier Sunday, is in second place. Defending champion PSG is third, three points behind both Nice and Monaco.

PSG and Monaco are involved in both domestic cup competitions and the Champions League, while Nice has only the league to play for.

Marseille’s tactical approach of all-out attack backfired as Monaco’s speedy and nimble midfielders, Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva, made the most of the space on offer, as did top scorer Radamel Falcao.

All three were on target, with Silva getting two and Falcao netting his eighth goal in the past seven games and 17th in all competitions.

The 21-year-old Lemar, recently called up to the France squad, scored with a moment of audacious brilliance in the 16th minute.

Challenging for the ball with Japanese defender Hiroki Sakai on the left flank, he headed the ball over Sakai, turned and then let the ball bounce before angling an exquisite lob over goalkeeper Yohann Pele.

Falcao continued his scoring streak with another excellent finish five minutes later, running onto right back Djibril Sidibe’s pass, drawing Pele off his line and feigning to curl the ball around him before dinking it inside the near post instead.

Marseille rallied and Portuguese center half Jorge Rolando rose to powerfully head in 19-year-old midfielder Maxime Lopez’s free kick in the 29th.

But Monaco could have had further goals before the irrepressible Silva started and finished a move, timing his run perfectly to head past Pele from close range just before the interval.

Shortly after the interval, Silva smacked a fierce shot in off the crossbar after Pele had saved a shot from Brazilian midfielder Fabinho, who was at the heart of another superbly orchestrated counterattack.

“It’s a pleasure to play with great players like Falcao,” Lemar said. “It helps young players like me.”

Marseille lost the corresponding fixture 4-0 in Monaco and it was only slightly better this time.

“They were better than us in every department,” Marseille striker Bafetimbi Gomis said. “There was a difference in class between the teams and you could see it.”

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NICE 0, METZ 0

With star striker Mario Balotelli and creative midfielder Younes Belhanda both unavailable through suspension, Nice lacked its usual invention against resilient Metz, which played far better than expected from a 19th-placed team.

“We can live with a point,” Nice coach Lucien Favre said. “Both teams could have won it.”

Having completed his suspension, Balotelli will be back to lead the line against Bastia on Friday, Favre said.

Nice striker Alassane Plea went close to scoring midway through the second half, when his angled shot flew just wide of the post.

Nice conceded ground to PSG, which won 1-0 at Rennes on Saturday - with new signing Julian Draxler scoring a superb winner on his league debut.

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CAEN 3, LYON 2

Alexandre Lacazette scored twice to take his season’s tally to 15 league goals, but it wasn’t enough as Lyon lost ground on PSG.

Although fourth-placed Lyon has a game in hand, it is eight points behind PSG after losing for only the second time in 14 games.

Croatian striker Ivan Santini starred for Normandy side Caen, scoring a penalty and the winner from a header after creating the first goal when his cross was turned into his own net by Lyon forward Maxwell Cornet.

Lyon midfielder Lucas Tousart hit the crossbar with a rasping shot as Lyon went close to equalizing.

“We made too many basic errors,” Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons said. “We’re going to have to play much better if we want to achieve our objectives.”

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