Monaco block Auxerre from top

Auxerre's hopes of going top of the French championship were dashed on Monday after they were held 0-0 by Monaco.

Auxerre moved alongside champions and leaders Bordeaux as well as Montpellier on 56 points, but are third because of a poorer goal difference and like Montpellier have played two more matches than Bordeaux - for Monaco it was their fourth successive match without scoring and they remain in ninth spot.

Auxerre coach Jean Fernandez was far from dismayed at the result as he saw it as another example of his team giving one of the giants of the domestic scene a blackeye. "We were really good defensively again this evening," said Fernandez.

"That is our strength. Our season has already been a successful one whatever happens now. We have lost just six matches this campaign, including the first three. We are therefore not easy to play against. We take great pleasure from our being so high in the table and that we are gnawing away at the big players in the title race."

His Monaco counterpart Guy Lacombe believed that the exertions of overcoming Sochaux 4-3 after extra time in the French Cup quarter-finals last week had taken its toll and was not best pleased by the whistles that greeted the team at the final whistle from the paltry 2,500 spectators.

"They (the spectators) have to be more understanding and help us," said the former Rennes, Sochaux and Paris Saint Germain handler. "We have the same number of points at this stage of the season as we finished with last term. Some times it is like that. But these type of matches can lead onto more exalted fare."

While Monaco had most of the possession in the opening quarter of the match they failed to trouble Auxerre goalkeeper and captain Olivier Sorin. It was the visitors who had the first real chance as unmarked central defender Adama Coulibaly had a free header from a corner in the 20th minute, but while he beat Monaco goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier he failed to hit the target.

Auxerre also had the best chance in the opening exchanges of the second-half as Polish international striker Jelen Ireneusz - scorer of 10 goals this season - was put through one on one with Ruffier in the 50th minute, but his first touch let him down and the Monaco goalkeeper was able to smother the ball.

The visitors were fortunate to not be reduced to 10 men with just over 20 minutes remaining as Kenyan international Dennis Oliech, who had already been booked, made contact with Monaco central defender Djimi Traore. Auxerre did break the stalemate in the 81st minute when Romanian striker Daniel Niculae looked to have been rewarded for a busy night's work, only for play to be called back for offside.