Lille finish goalless with Valenciennes
© AFP

England loan ranger Joe Cole was reduced to a short cameo appearance from the bench as reigning champions Lille failed to break down a resilient Valenciennes in a goalless draw.

Lille failed to make it four league wins in a row and took their winless streak at Valenciennes to five visits. Dimitri Payet won the vote of coach Rudi Garcia to start on the right side of midfield as Cole, who has generally acquitted himself well since his season loan signing from Liverpool, looked on from the dugout.

The point took Lille into third spot on goal difference from Lyon, but they are still six points adrift of leaders Paris Saint-Germain, who saw off Caen 4-2 on Saturday at the Parc des Princes.

Valenciennes, desperate to escape the drop zone - the stalemate left Lille's fellow northerners in the bottom three - caused the champions problems on several occasions.

And they might have registered a shock win had Renaud Cohade not struck the crossbar with a fine effort on the half-hour mark and Gael Danic not then seen a left-footed effort also come back off the woodwork on 54 minutes. Veteran keeper Mickael Landreau was beaten on both occasions.

Colombian Carlos Alberto Sanchez then tried an effort from distance, but Landreau got down adroitly to smother. Highly-rated youngster Eden Hazard tried to give Lille a boost as he fired in a wicked low cross just after the hour mark but Moussa Sow, having earlier hit the post, was unable to get the decisive touch needed to steer the ball in.

Cole then did come on for the tiring Sow in a final throw of Lille's dice with 13 minutes remaining, but was unable to find a way of breaking the deadlock.

Lille will now have to turn their attentions swiftly to their fading chances of advancing from their UEFA Champions League pool, where they are currently winless, as they visit Inter Milan on Wednesday.