Montpellier grab late win, Marseille bag point
An 89th-minute volley by Ligue 1 top scorer Olivier Giroud gave Montpellier a 1-0 win at home over Saint-Etienne today, moving them a point above Paris Saint-Germain at the summit.
PSG will return to the top of the table should they beat Bordeaux tomorrow evening, but Giroud's last-gasp intervention enabled Rene Girard's side to claim a first win in three games in all competitions and confirm their title aspirations.
Having been eliminated from the French Cup by third-tier Gazelec Ajaccio in midweek, Montpellier saw their best efforts at goal thwarted by a succession of smart saves from Saint-Etienne goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier.
The visitors were reduced to ten men when Jean-Pascal Mignot saw red for a last-man foul on Remy Cabella, however, and Giroud finally made the breakthrough at the death, lashing home a 20-yard volley for his 18th league goal this term.
Marseille, Nice share points
Marseille ended a club-record string of seven straight defeats with a 1-1 draw at Mediterranean rivals Nice, ahead of the visit of an in-form Bayern Munich side for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday.
Their match began in calamitous fashion, though, as Souleymane Diawara had to go off after only six minutes due to injury and his replacement, Charles Kabore, was shown a red card before half-time for a high foul on Elliot Grandin.
It was nonetheless Marseille who made the breakthrough, with Andre Ayew crisply tucking away Cesar Azpilicueta's cut-back in the 56th minute to end a Ligue 1 goal drought stretching all the way back to 2 December. But their lead lasted less than 20 minutes, with Fabian Monzon drilling in his sixth penalty of the season to level the score after Esmael Goncalves was tripped by Rod Fanni.
The draw left Marseille a hefty 13 points outside the Champions League places in eighth, while they face the prospect of being without both Diawara and suspended goalkeeper Steve Mandanda for Wednesday's game with Bayern. Top scorer Loic Remy, meanwhile, remains doubtful with a thigh problem.
Lille hit Evian for three
Lille held on to third place with a 3-0 win at Evian that lifted the defending champions to within seven points of the top, while Lyon climbed above Toulouse into fourth place by beating second-bottom Sochaux 2-1.
Eden Hazard was at it again for Lille, breaking the deadlock with a 36th-minute penalty to claim his 13th league goal of the season and then teeing up Dimitri Payet for Lille's second goal in the 55th minute. Benoit Pedretti made it 3-0 in the 67th minute with a low shot that crept over the line via the base of the left-hand post.
Improving Lyon extended their winning run to four matches thanks to a third-minute Dejan Lovren header and a cool, scooped finish from Bafetimbi Gomis midway through the second half against Sochaux at Stade Gerland. Modibo Maiga pulled one back for the visitors with 20 minutes to play after rounding Hugo Lloris.
Lyon, who face Marseille in the French League Cup final next month and meet Gazelec Ajaccio in the French Cup semi-finals, trail Lille by four points in the duel for the third and final Champions League place.
Elsewhere, Lorient drew 1-1 at Ajaccio, while Nancy further allayed their relegation fears with a 1-0 success at Brest.
Rennes fall at Valenciennes
In the final kick-off, Rennes missed the chance to close in on UEFA Europa League qualification as they went down to Valenciennes in Ligue 1.
Gael Danic scored the only goal of the game in the 12th minute from the penalty spot and, despite dominating, Rennes could not force an equaliser to sit five points behind Lyon in fourth.It was, though, a welcome three points for Valenciennes as they bid to put clear daylight between themselves and the battle against relegation.