Lyon ground out a goalless draw on Sunday at their Stade Gerland with title rivals Marseille to preserve their three-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 as they chase an eighth straight title. Marseille, without a championship since 1993, could have gone joint leaders with a win but will head back home frustrated after failing to close the gap in a tense affair. Lyon lead the way after 18 games with 35 points ahead of a trio on 32. That includes Bordeaux, Paris St Germain and Marseille with Rennes a point further back and Toulouse in sixth a point behind them.
Despite Lyon's recent dominance, Marseille have actually had the better of recent meetings between the two. They have won two and drawn three of the last six encounters. Eric Gerets' side have only eked out two points from their past four league games while also exiting the UEFA Champions League.
The visitors had in playmaker Hatem Ben Arfa a man desperate to make an impression against his former club. The French international was a regular last season but used too sparingly for his liking in previous campaigns and decamped to the Stade Velodrome last summer. However, he was unable to provide the spark of inspiration to earn his colleagues a win bonus.
And even though Gerets went for the jugular in a formation that include Baky Kone, Ben Arfa and three attacking midfielders in Boudewijn Zenden, Mathieu Valbuena and Karim Ziani they were unable to pinch the points. Marseille were left to rue misses in an entertaining opening first half that saw home goalkeeper Hugo Lloris save well in quick succession from Zenden and Valbuena. On the plus side they showed great defensive rigour in closing out Lyon's usually dangerous France international striker Karim Benzema and Brazilian playmaker, who were all but suffocated by the visitors' backline.
Earlier Sunday, Lille bolstered their hopes of a UEFA Cup spot with a 1-0 win at Nice, which took the northerners into seventh spot, level on 29 points with their vanquished hosts who missed a chance to go joint second. Michel Bastos scored the only goal on eight minutes. Le Havre seem destined for the drop following a 3-1 home reverse against Lorient, who are three points adrift of Nice.