Week 20 Review: No Neymar no problem as PSG pull clear
Paris Saint-Germain had to win ugly at FC Nantes, but win they did, with Angel Di Maria on target; Nearest challengers AS Monaco and Olympique Lyonnais lost ground while LOSC's rejuvenation continued.
PSG made the 380-kilometre journey west to Nantes without Neymar in tow, the world's most expensive player nursing a rib injury. There were a few more injured body parts against a Nantes side whom coach Unai Emery described as "fighting for every ball for 90 minutes," but the capital club got the job done with Di Maria's third goal of the season - and second against Les Canaris - separating the sides on Sunday.
"I think my team has demonstrated that they know how to win ugly," said Emery at his post-match press conference. "It was different from a lot of matches we've had this season. They are a tough team who put a lot of pressure on us and held their position with a lot of character. But I think the win is well deserved."
Ligue 1 Conforama champions and nearest challengers AS Monaco were without their own star forward, with Radamel Falcao missing the principality club's trip to Montpellier Hérault SC on Saturday. Leonardo Jardim's side could only wrestle to a goalless draw against the division's best defence, much to the coach's chagrin.
"A draw isn't a good result as we came here to take three points," said the Portuguese tactician. "We were missing a lot of things in attack. We'll try to be more competitive when we play Nice on Tuesday. We respected our defensive organisation but we weren't good enough in the final third. The pressure on us is to finish second in the table."
Had Lyon beaten Angers SCO as expected then they would have overtaken Monaco as PSG's nearest challengers, but things failed to go to plan for Les Gones, with Nabil Fekir's strike required to cancel out Karl Toko Ekambi's opener for the hosts, he ended the game with ten men.
"Disappointment is the overwhelming feeling," was OL coach Bruno Génésio's frank appraisal. "We had the chance to move into second outright. Unfortunately, we struggled to get a grip on the game against an organised opponent. We also conceded a goal from one of their rare chances. We did everything to get back on level terms and then win, but we weren't clinical enough."
Monaco's and Lyon's pain was Olympique de Marseille's gain, with Florian Thauvin providing a goal and an assist in OM's 3-0 win at Stade Rennais FC in Saturday's early kick off to move onto nine goals for the season, while his side moved to within a point of PSG's two closest chasers.
"I'm satisfied and we were terrific in the first half," said Les Phocéens coach Rudi Garcia. "We really wanted to beat them. Everyone played and put in the defensive work. We really wanted to put pressure on our rivals in the table as it's rare that we play before the others."
Lille have lift-off
At the other end of the table, life under Christophe Galtier has been going to plan for LOSC, with Les Dogues picking up their second win in all competitions since the former AS Saint-Etienne man took over, beating SM Caen 1-0.
"It was important to get a good result and we want to go on a run," said an ambitious Galtier of a game that saw Nicolas Pépé score and both teams lose a player to red cards. "We could have been more effective in attack and missing chances put us under pressure until the end. There some were good things and some less good. The most important thing is the team spirit. The players are committed to what we're doing."
Caen Roux what might have been
Bottom club Metz showed similar will power in snatching a draw at SM Caen, Galtier's former ASSE striker Nolan Roux scoring a minute from time to earn a share of the spoils after Julio Tavares' first-minute opener had looked to be enough for the hosts.
OGC Nice and EA Guingamp kept themselves within touching distance of the European places, meanwhile; the former beating promoted Amiens SC 1-0, the latter enjoying a 2-0 triumph at the team that came up alongside Amiens last season, RC Satrsbourg Alsace.
Wins for Bordeaux, ASSE
Elsewhere, Girondins de Bordeaux and under pressure coach Jocelyn Gourvennec had Gaëtan Laborde - on his comeback from injury - to thank for their 1-0 win over ESTAC Troyes while Sainté dismissed Toulouse FC 2-0, leaving the latter in 19th, just five points better off than Metz.
>> VIDEO: Official match highlights of all the Week 20 action
>> Week 20 reactions - Emery: 'Win ugly'
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