Rodriguez powers Monaco past Bastia
James Rodriguez steered Monaco back to within five points of Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain after netting both goals in a 2-0 win away to Bastia on Saturday.
The Colombian struck a goal in either half as Monaco won for the first time in three league matches to maintain the status quo at the top of the French table.
Defeat for Bastia, just a second home loss of the season for the Corsican side, saw them remain in eighth.
"We knew this match against Bastia would be difficult and I'm very happy with how it went," reflected Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri.
"We went somewhere it is difficult to go and win and we delivered.
"The key to the match was the goal just before half-time. From there we were able to control things despite the pressure Bastia put us under," continued the Italian, who acknowledged James' standout performance but also praised his side's collective display.
"James played well and is an important player but it was a full team effort," added Ranieri.
James, Joao Moutinho and Emmanuel Riviere were all recalled to the starting line-up after the trio were on the bench for Wednesday's French Cup victory at Nice.
However, the Monegasques were without Dimitar Berbatov after the Bulgarian picked up a knee injury in that midweek win.
Bastia goalkeeper Jean-Louis Leca, deputising once again for the injured Mickael Landreau, was forced into an early save from Riviere at the Stade Armand-Cesari before Monaco full-back Layvin Kurzawa sent a header just wide.
Djibril Cisse, who scored his first Bastia goal in Tuesday's 3-1 victory at Toulouse, had the best chance for the hosts in the first half but couldn't direct his headed effort on target from Julian Palmieri's corner.
An uneventful opening period sparked into life on 45 minutes though after James was upended by defender Sebastien Squillaci just outside the penalty area.
The former Porto winger dusted himself off before drilling the resulting free-kick across Leca and into the far corner to put Monaco in front.
James continued to threaten after the break, crossing for Valere Germain only for the striker to prod wide at the near post.
However, those two combined again to much greater effect 13 minutes from time as Monaco put the contest to bed.
Germain picked up a loose ball inside his own half and fed James, who advanced unchallenged towards goal before firing expertly inside the far post for his second of the match and fifth of the season.
Elsewhere, Zambian defender Stoppila Sunzu scored a late winner for Sochaux as they beat Guingamp 1-0 to claw to within five points of safety.
Reims climbed to sixth after a 1-0 win at home to Bordeaux, while Toulouse came from behind to beat 10-man Lorient 3-1 in Brittany.
Souleymane Camara snatched a late equaliser for Montpellier in a 2-2 draw at Rennes, while Nice against Nantes ended in a goalless stalemate.
Third-placed Lille travel to face Evian on Sunday before fourth and fifth face off at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard as Saint-Etienne meet Marseille.
On Friday, Paris Saint-Germain strolled to a 3-0 win at home to struggling Valenciennes through goals from Ezequiel Lavezzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and an own-goal from Gary Kagelmacher.
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