Week 13 review: Paris pull clear as chasers held
By S. Willis
Paris, 4-1 winners over Nantes, stretched their lead atop the Ligue 1 Conforama standings to six points as Monaco, Lyon and Marseille were all held. Meanwhile LOSC got a second win in a row, trumping Saint-Etienne 3-1.
Paris Saint-Germain looked every bit the title favourites as they cruised to a 4-1 win over Nantes at the Parc des Princes on Saturday afternoon, coach Unai Emery leaving Kylian Mbappé on the bench as his other stars - including a fit-again Javier Pastore - dismantled Claudio Ranieri's valiant Canaris.
"I think this competition for places is good as we look for the best collective performance. There are nine matches before the holidays in December and we have spoken to the staff about how to manage the players for the games to come," said Emery, whose side look to continue their unbeaten run in all competitions as they host Celtic in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night. "Today was good also for the players who came in, like Yuri (Berchiche), Angel Di Maria and Javier Pastore. When you can rotate it helps the players physically and mentally, and helps the overall performance."
Ominous words for nearest rivals AS Monaco, who slipped two further points behind the capital club when they were held to a 1-1 draw away to Amiens SC on Friday night.
"We didn't manage to achieve our objective, especially in the first half. We didn't control possession, we failed to complete a lot of passes, we didn't play collectively," admitted Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim, whose side are nonetheless unbeaten in five matches in all competitions and now have fit-again captain Fabinho back in action ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash at home to RB Leipzig. "After that, we managed to play more with the ball, be more creative, but it wasn't enough. We're disappointed, because we aim to win every game."
So too third-placed Olympique Lyonnais could only manage a single point as they were prevented from scoring at home - for the first time this season - in a 0-0 draw with a tenacious Montpellier HSC outfit who, despite being winless in three, have lost just once in their last nine all competitions.
"We're very disappointed with the result," said OL boss Bruno Genesio after his side's six-match winning run in all competitions had come to an end. "We lacked technical precision and quality, especially in the second half. You could say that the international break halted our momentum, just like other teams that had internationals jetting off to the four corners of the globe. But there was also the way Montpellier played, which makes them the best defence in the league."
Sanson the saviour
Meanwhile Olympique de Marseille were out to break a 40-year hoodoo in Bordeaux, but instead found themselves chasing the game and just managing to earn a point when Morgan Sanson struck in injury time - much to Bordeaux boss Jocelyn Gourvennec's disappointment.
"It's a huge disappointment to drop two points like that. We weren't rewarded for a really excellent performance in a high-stakes match," he said after his side had gone so close to breaking a three-match losing run with a prize scalp. "We wanted to bounce back for our fans, and even more so against a side playing for a top-three finish."
Bielsa: 'A relief'
Marcelo Bielsa's LOSC took a big step towards climbing out of the drop zone as they made it back-to-back wins for the first time this season with a 3-1 thumping of AS Saint-Etienne, whose coach Oscar Garcia quit during the week.
"We played well and came out with the win, so it's certainly one of our best performances of the season," said Bielsa, of whom expectations are giant following a massive overhaul of LOSC's squad, staff and boardroom over the summer. "This win is a relief, but we'll have to reinforce it in the future by stabilising our position in the table and our standard of play. I saw a good performance from Thiago Mendes, but the fact the whole team put on a good display, tried to go forward, is satisfying."
OGC Nice were looking good to build on their Week 12 win over Dijon as Pierre Lees-Melou drew first blood in Caen, but Ronny Rodelin's deft leveller left Lucien Favre's side with just a point (1-1) and a mountain to climb to reach the heights of last season.
Dijon, meanwhile, ran roughshod over ESTAC Troyes following an early blip, running out 3-1 winners, thanks notably to a double from the club's all-time top scorer Julio Tavares. Promoted RC Strasbourg stayed just outside the relegation places in 17th with a 2-1 win over ten-man Stade Rennais FC, handing a rough start to new boss Sabri Lamouchi.
Guingamp and Angers played out a scoreless draw in Brittany, while Toulouse failed to get the better of bottom club Metz in a match that also ended 0-0.