Lille on title brink, Lens suffer relegation

Lille could all but secure the Ligue 1 title on Wednesday after nearest rivals Marseille, the defending champions, were held to a 2-2 draw at Lorient.

Lille beat Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in yesterday's Coupe de France final to end a 56-year silverware drought and if they win at home to Sochaux on Wednesday, they will go six points clear of Marseille, who only have six points to play for.

Rudi Garcia's side are therefore four points from a league and cup double with three games to play and a goal difference that is seven goals superior to Marseille's.

Loic Remy put Marseille ahead with a classy solo goal in the 14th minute at Stade du Moustoir, twisting Lorient centre-back Bruno Ecuele Manga inside-out before tucking the ball past Lionel Cappone in the home goal.

Lamine Kone equalised with a back-post header at the start of the second period and Marseille's title hopes looked dead in the 80th minute when Kevin Gameiro darted in to touch home Yann Jouffre's right-wing centre.

Andre-Pierre Gignac levelled with two minutes remaining, however, before Benoit Cheyrou spurned the chance to give Marseille all three points when his header from point-blank range was caught on the line by Cappone.

"Our hopes for the title were slim and now they're obviously tiny," admitted Marseille coach Didier Deschamps. "There are lots of regrets as we played a very good first half. We could even have taken a bigger lead and the start of the second half gave Lorient confidence. There's disappointment. There was an opportunity to win and we have regrets."

There was an opportunity to win and we have regrets.
Didier Deschamps, Marseille coach

Lens drop after draw
Earlier, Lens were relegated after a 1-1 draw at Monaco. Monaco took a 14th-minute lead through Cameroon striker Benjamin Moukandjo, who dispatched a beautifully measured left-wing centre from Chris Malonga with a deft half-volley.

Teenage defender Raphael Varane, 18, equalised with an injury-time header, but although it was not enough to keep Lens out of Ligue 2, it did suck Monaco down into the relegation zone.

Lens, promoted from the second tier in 2009, have endured a tumultuous season, with experienced Romanian coach Laszlo Boloni unable to stop the early-season rot after replacing Jean-Guy Wallemme in January.

"It's the umpteenth time that we've got a good result away from home and it hasn't been enough," said Boloni. "When I arrived at Lens, I gave myself an objective: being able to go home every night and look at myself in the mirror. I can do that."

Lens' fate was sealed thanks to victories for Caen and Nancy, the former winning 2-0 at home to Montpellier, the latter crushing fellow strugglers Nice 3-0 on their home pitch.

The congestion at the bottom of the table means that just eight points separate seventh-placed Lorient and third-bottom Monaco. Nancy and Brest, who host Lyon on Monday, are a point above Monaco, with Nice a point further ahead in 15th.

"It's not a moment when I can talk easily," said Monaco coach Laurent Banide, who left his press conference in tears. "I've taken a blow to the head. Are the players affected? Everyone is affected."

Rennes end winless run
Elsewhere on Saturday, Rennes won 2-1 at Saint-Etienne, for whom Bakary Sako scored direct from a corner kick to end a dismal nine-game winless run and re-affirm their grip on fifth place.

Rock-bottom Arles-Avignon picked up only their second win of the season by prevailing 1-0 at home to Toulouse, who are now just three points above the drop zone. An 87th-minute equaliser from South Korean striker Jung Jo-Gook, meanwhile, earned Auxerre a 1-1 draw at Valenciennes.