Joy of six for Lyon
Lyon charged six points clear at the top of the table on Saturday with a 2-0 win at Nancy thanks to goals from Cris and Karim Benzema. Paris Saint Germain remain second, but lost ground after they were held to a goalless draw at Grenoble, while Toulouse moved into third despite a 0-0 home draw with Valenciennes.
Saturday 21 February 2009
AS Nancy Lorraine / Olympique Lyonnais : 0 - 2
With one eye on next week's Champions League tie with Barcelona, Lyon coach Claude Puel shuffled his pack, but found his squad's strength in depth still more than sufficient to see off an unimaginative Nancy side.
Fabio Gross, Kader Keita, Juninho, Ederson and Benzema can all expect to start when OL face the all-conquering Catalans at Stade Municipal de Gerland on Tuesday, but the quintet began on the bench at the Stade Marcel Picot as Lyon went in search of a third successive league win.
César Delgado has already proved himself a useful addition to the squad, and it was the Argentine's free-kick that found the head of Cris to allow the Brazilian to nod the seven-time champions into a 19th-minute lead.
With John Mensah suspended following his red card against Le Havre last week, Kim Källström was again employed as a makeshift left-back, and while the midfielder endured a testing night, it was his counterpart on the right flank, Lamine Gassama, who gifted the hosts a chance to get themselves back in the match.
The 19-year-old has found himself thrust into the first team following the long-term injuries to Anthony Réveillère and François Clerc, and his inexperience showed as he brought down the excellent Jonathan Brison in the box early in the second-half. Youssouf Hadji saw his penalty brilliantly parried by Hugo Lloris though.
The hosts tested the French international on several more occasions but it was the visitors who would again find the net in stoppage time - Benzema, who had emerged from the bench to replace Frédéric Piquionne as the lone striker, racing clear before beating Gennaro Bracigliano for his 12th league goal of the campaign.
Grenoble Foot 38 / Paris Saint-Germain : 0 - 0
Paul Le Guen's side saw their run of four consecutive victories come to an end as they struggled to find fluidity at the Stade des Alpes, where the hosts claimed a third point in three matches.
Impressive in their UEFA Cup defeat of Wolfsburg in midweek, PSG looked sluggish four days later as they failed to provide top scorer Guillaume Hoarau with the ammunition to add to his 13 league goals this season.
Sofiane Feghouli tested Mickaël Landreau as the hosts scented a surprise victory, and Mehda Bazdarevic's side were unfortunate not to be awarded a late penalty when PSG defender Mamadou Sakho appeared to handle the ball inside the box.
Havre AC / AJ Auxerre : 1 - 2
Auxerre put still more distance between themselves and the drop zone with a third consecutive league win which hammered yet another nail into the coffin of Le Havre.
Thomas Kahlenberg had been cleared to play after seeing his red card against Lille rescinded, and the Danish international proved his worth to Jean Fernandez's side as he broke the deadllock within 60 seconds in Normandy.
Jean-Michel Lesage's fifth goal of the season sent the two sides in level at the interval, but Valter Birsa struck his first goal for AJA since his winter move from Sochaux eleven minutes from time to lift the Burgundy club into tenth.
FC Lorient / FC Sochaux-Montbéliard : 1 - 2
There is the feeling that if Sochaux are to avoid the drop this season, then their international strike force of Mevlut Erding and Vaclav Sverkos will be the ones to ensure there is top-flight football at the Stade Bonal next season.
Should they fail, there would likely be no shortage of clubs willing to take the pair off the Montbéliard club's hands after they teamed up effectively in Brittany to earn their side a first win in three matches.
Kevin Gameiro had given the hosts a half-time lead, but Turkish international Erding scored his eighth of the season to level, before Czech Republic forward Sverkos grabbed his third in six games since moving to France to leave Francis Gillot's men just two points from safety.
FC Nantes / SM Caen : 1 - 1
Goals at either extreme of the first half saw the points shared in Brittany, and ensures both sides remain relegation candidates.
Franck Dumas' said earlier this week that he would know when it was time for him to step down as Caen coach, and that determination to battle through a ten-game winless streak rubbed off on his players who earned themselves a third-minute lead through Anthony Deroin.
Nantes, though, can be optimistic the quality of front pairing Ivan Klasnic and Christian Bekamenga will keep them in the top flight. The duo teamed up promisingly on a number of occasions, though it was the gift of a poor clearance from the Caen defence that Bekamenga accepted before beating Vincent Planté to level a minute before the interval.
Elie Baup's men could have had all three points when substitute Filip Djordjevic was sent clear with eight minutes left, but the youngster shot wide with only Planté to beat.
Toulouse FC / Valenciennes FC : 0 - 0
Alain Casanova's side extended their unbeaten run to ten league matches, but failed to record a third successive win as they were held by a resurgent Valenciennes side.
Antoine Kombouaré's men lifted themselves out of the bottom three with victory over Caen last week, and earned some extra breathing space with a battling display which lengthened their own streak of invincibility to eight Ligue 1 encounters.
The home side enjoyed the best of the chances though, and may well have taken all three points had Jérémy Mathieu's free-kick late in the first-half found the net rather than the woodwork with visiting keeper Nicolas Penneteau well beaten.