PARIS — Teenage forward Kylian Mbappe further underlined his reputation on Sunday as arguably the rising star of European football. He scored two more goals, helping league leader Monaco crush Nantes 4-0 to restore its three-point lead at the top of the French league.
The 18-year-old Mbappe is earning rave reviews this season. As well as drawing early comparisons with France great Thierry Henry for his speed and trickery, Mbappe has netted 15 times so far.
"Kylian is improving. He is becoming more efficient inside the penalty area, in terms of his positioning and his movement," Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim said. "He scored with a header and he made good runs. I congratulated him when he came off."
Mbappe missed out on the chance for a third hat trick of the season when Jardim took him off midway through the second half, with the player earning a sustained ovation from the Stade Louis II crowd.
"I’m still learning from all the good players around me," Mbappe said. "I’ll take all the opportunities I’m given."
Monaco retained its three-point cushion over both defending champion Paris Saint-Germain and third-placed Nice, although Monaco’s goal difference of plus 57 is 20 better than PSG’s and effectively makes the lead four points.
Jardim’s free-scoring side has 121 goals in all competitions this season — and has scored four goals or more in a game an impressive 14 times.
In the league, Monaco has 82 goals and, with 10 games left, is well on course to smash PSG’s formidable total of 102 from last season.
After Brazilian defender Fabinho’s penalty made it 4-0 in the 59th minute, Monaco eased up.
The club is competing on four fronts this season and faces a tough return leg against Manchester City in the Champions League on March 15 — having lost the first-leg Round of 16 match 5-3 in a thriller.
Monaco fans have been spoilt this season and, with just four minutes played, Mbappe struck with an athletic half-volley following good approach play from attacking midfielder Bernardo Silva.
After striker Valere Germain made it 2-0 in the 43rd with his ninth league goal of the season, Mbappe nodded in his second goal just before the break thanks to a perfect cross from Silva.
"We scored at the right times in the match, which was bad for them and gave us a boost," Mbappe said.
Fabinho’s penalty came after midfielder Thomas Lemar was fouled.
LORIENT 1, MARSEILLE 4
Marseille offered a glimpse of its attacking potential with a resounding 4-1 win at last-placed Lorient, with new recruits Dimitri Payet and Morgan Sanson among the scorers.
All four of Marseille’s goals were scored inside the first hour, with centre half Jorge Rolando and winger Florian Thauvin grabbing the others.
Payet, Marseille’s star signing when he joined for nearly 30 million euros (nearly $32 million) from Premier League side West Ham in January, made it two in two games with a fine finish.
Following a corner, Payet latched onto a pass and — with his back to goal on the right — turned and arrowed a dipping shot into the opposite corner to make it 2-0 in the 19th minute.
On this evidence, Marseille looks like having a promising forward line next season — especially if it recruits a top-class centre forward.
Payet, Sanson and Thauvin and fellow winger Remy Cabella are all mobile players who like to roam and they combined well with their slick movement — albeit against weak opposition.
Thauvin, who joined Marseille after an unhappy spell in the Premier League for Newcastle last season, scored another spectacular goal, his eighth of the season.
Three minutes later, Cabella played Thauvin down the right and his cross found Sanson at the far post for 4-0.
Striker Benjamin Moukandjo pulled a goal back for the home side, which faces defending champion Paris Saint-Germain next weekend.
The win moved Marseille above Saint-Etienne and into sixth place, one point behind Bordeaux and five behind fourth-placed Lyon, which has a game in hand.
TOULOUSE 1, LILLE 1
Striker Martin Braithwaite won a penalty for Toulouse with six minutes left and then missed it.
The Denmark international’s tame spot kick was too easily read by veteran Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who went to his left and then got up sharply to smother Braithwaite’s rebound effort.
Striker Yassine Benzia equalized for Lille in the 80th minute after imposing centre half Christopher Jullien put the home side ahead in the first half.
Toulouse is in ninth place, while Lille is 16th and only three points above the relegation zone.