Marseille take control of title race

Marseille remained on course for a first French championship in 18 years after thrashing south coast neighbours Nice 4-1 on Sunday to move two points clear at the Ligue 1 summit.

Côte d'Ivoire winger Bakary Kone put the hosts ahead three minutes before half-time and Stephane Mbia headed home from a corner in the 52nd minute, with Lucho Gonzalez the supplier on both occasions.

Mathieu Valbuena made it 3-0 in the 71st minute, lifting the ball over David Ospina with the outside of his right foot from Mamadou Niang's lay-off, before Souleymane Diawara converted another Lucho corner with a towering header. Emerse Fae claimed an injury-time consolation for Eric Roy's side.

I say bravo to the players because after a European Cup match they put in a very solid performance. They gave everything that they could have given today.
Lyon coach Claude Puel after his side drew with Lille

All of Marseille's title rivals except Auxerre dropped points over the weekend, with Lyon and Lille drawing 1-1 earlier on Sunday, leaving Didier Deschamps's team in pole position with seven matches to play. The Mediterranean giants have a game in hand on Auxerre, Lyon, Montpellier and Lille and will open up a five-point lead over the chasing pack with victory in their delayed match at Sochaux on Wednesday.

Despite the victory, Marseille striker Mathieu Valbuena urged caution. "The confidence is there, we all work for each other. We know that in the newspapers tomorrow, we will be described as champions. Of course, we are in first place, but we have to remain calm," he said.

Late goal lifts Auxerre
Second-placed Auxerre maintained their drive for a European place after Romanian striker Daniel Niculae smashed home in the 88th minute to bring them a 1-0 win at Nancy.

"We're five points above Lille, which is the most important thing," said Auxerre captain Benoit Pedretti, whose side must finish in the top five if they are to play European football next season. "We have to avoid sixth place. It would be annoying to have done all that and not qualify for Europe."

Lyon captain Cris headed in from a free-kick to earn his side a point at home to Lille after they had fallen behind to a deflected Pierre-Alain Frau strike in the 62nd minute. Both sides finished the match with 10 men, after Lille defender Ricardo Costa and Lyon defensive midfielder Maxime Gonalons were dismissed for committing two bookable offences.

"I say bravo to the players because after a European Cup match they put in a very solid performance," said Lyon coach Claude Puel. "They gave everything that they could have given today."

Lyon, who will face Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals after knocking out Bordeaux on Wednesday, remain third on 58 points, level with Montpellier, who fall to fourth on goal difference. Lille stay sixth, seven points shy of Marseille, while the battle for a top-three finish and a place in next season's Champions League threatens to go down to the final weekend of the season.

Bordeaux hit the skids
Defending champions Bordeaux's quest to retain their title was dealt a sizeable blow on Saturday when they lost 3-1 at Paris Saint-Germain.

Eliminated from the Champions League in mid-week and beaten by Marseille in last month's League Cup final, Bordeaux finished the weekend six points behind OM in fifth but with a game in hand.

Montpellier were held 2-2 at second-bottom Le Mans, while bottom club Grenoble's long-awaited relegation was confirmed when they lost 4-0 at Toulouse and fourth-bottom Saint-Etienne beat Sochaux 2-0 to pull 11 points clear of the drop zone.