PARIS: French international Alexandre Lacazette hit a hat trick as Lyon sealed a place in next season’s Champions League by thrashing 10-man Monaco 6-1 at Parc OL on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Second-placed Lyon went into the game ahead of Monaco in the Ligue 1 table on goal difference, and they pulled clear quickly with goals from Rachid Ghezzal and Lacazette inside the first eight minutes.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa headed in a third after visiting striker Lacina Traore was sent off, and Lacazette dinked in before Ricardo Carvalho pulled one back before half time.
Centre-back Yanga-Mbiwa piled yet more misery onto Monaco just before the hour mark before Lacazette completed a hat trick.
Lyon are all but assured of a place in the Champions League group stages, and of being runners-up behind Paris Saint-Germain for the second straight season, thanks to their far superior goal difference to Monaco with just a game to go.
The principality side though will be looking nervously over their shoulders as they look to hang onto the third and final spot in Europe’s premier competition, after Nice beat the nine men of Saint-Etienne 2-0 to close the gap on the top three to just two points ahead of the final day of the season next Saturday.
Since ending PSG’s record unbeaten run in February, Lyon have not lost themselves, with Saturday’s victory their eighth in 10 outings.
“It was like a dream. It goes beyond what we expected,” Lyon coach Bruno Genesio said.
“I feel proud to have achieved the goal (Champions League qualification) that did not look easy in January. We had a great start to the match and it freed us up for the rest of the game.”
Algerian winger Ghezzal has had an excellent campaign, and he grabbed his eighth league goal this term from a tight angle after less than three minutes.
Sergi Darder teed up Lacazette to drill into the corner and continue a dream start for Genesio’s hosts.
Things went from bad to worse for Monaco midway through the first half, as Ivorian Traore picked up two yellow cards in just a couple of minutes.
Lyon were ripping their opponents’ defence to shreds in open play, but it was from a Ghezzal corner that Yanga-Mbiwa nodded his first goal for the club past the despairing dive of Danijel Subasic.
Lacazette completed a brace with an audacious finish from Christophe Jallet’s pass, scooping the ball past bewildered Serbian keeper Subasic.
Home goalkeeper Anthony Lopes threw away his clean sheet before half time when he punched a cross straight onto the head of Carvalho, but by then the game was already over as a contest.
Yanga-Mbiwa had only scored five times in his whole career before this game, but he completed his first professional brace by stabbing home after another set-piece wreaked havoc in a Monaco defence that have conceded 16 goals in their last six matches.
Lacazette bundled his way past Subasic and tapped in to grab his second treble of the season and round off a resounding result with 10 minutes to play.
Germain boosts Nice
Saint-Etienne’s Champions League hopes are now over after Kevin Malcuit and Franck Tabanou were both sent off at Nice.
Claude Puel’s men left it late, but finally made the most of their two-man advantage thanks to Valere Germain goals in the 86th and 89th minutes.
Nice visit Guingamp next week, while Monaco host Montpellier.
Elsewhere on Saturday, PSG set a new Ligue 1 points record of 92 by cruising past struggling Gazelec Ajaccio 4-0 in Corsica.
Edinson Cavani scored a hat trick before Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury-time strike, as Gazelec slipped into the relegation zone.
Toulouse clambered out of the bottom three at their expense after a tense 1-0 victory over already-relegated Troyes.
Argentinian Oscar Trejo was the star for Pascal Dupraz’s men, scoring the only goal in the second half just seconds after coming off the bench.
Two of Gazelec, Toulouse and Reims will go down next week, after the latter were beaten 1-0 at Marseille.
Michy Batshuayi gave OM their first home league win since September, leaving Reims a point behind their two rivals in the fight to avoid the drop.