Week 25 Review: PSG slip reignites title chase
By I. Holyman
Paris Saint-Germain slipped up at FC Sochaux-Montbéliard in Week 25 while Olympique Lyonnais and Olympique de Marseille both won to kickstart the Ligue 1 title race.
Coming into the weekend, PSG enjoyed a six-point cushion at the top of the table, but that was cut to three as - having seen their two closest challengers win - Carlo Ancelotti's men were surprisingly beaten 3-2 at Stade Auguste Bonal, just five days after triumphing so impressively at Valencia in the Champions League.
"Naturally, there was a little slackening off after the game against Valencia. It's always difficult to prepare a league match after a Champions League game as that competition saps a lot of energy," said Ancelotti, whose side went in front through Alex and levelled at 2-2 before succumbing to Cédric Bakambu's 82-minute winner. "I'm not annoyed, we've won a lot of games since the start of the season. We have to look ahead. I'm certain our next match will be better. For me, the title race is not back on as we never thought it was finished just because we had a six-point lead."
OL's brilliant display at Girondins de Bordeaux earlier on Sunday showed Ancelotti was right to remain circumspect. Rémi Garde's men tore the hosts apart with Clément Grénier scoring twice and setting up another in a thumping 4-0 win at the Stade Chaban-Delmas which handsomely staved off the menace of a third successive Ligue 1 defeat. "Thanks to the determination and the intelligence of several players in the squad, we were able to get rid of a number of problems which had slyly established themselves," Garde said.
OM remain in the hunt after ending a disappointing run of form, but only just. Elie Baup's men had seen their rivals for third place close dangerously after picking up just five points in their last five games, but Rod Fanni's matchwinner, in the third and final minute of added time at home to Valenciennes, brought relief ahead of next weekend's trip to the capital. "Before we play PSG, there's nothing better. The victory will help the atmosphere around us as we could feel the supporters getting a little frustrated, while it will also boost our league position and our confidence," said Fanni. "We deserve it."
Lille win again, Nice triumph
After a poor first half to the season, LOSC Lille continue to claw their way back into the reckoning for a top-five finish. An own-goal from Chris Mavinga and an eighth goal of the campaign for in-form Dimitri Payet saw off Stade Rennais FC, who lost more than the points with Romain Alessandrini rupturing right knee ligaments, ruling him out for the rest of the season. With Frédéric Antonetti's men slipping up, the Corsican coach's former club, OGC Nice, took advantage to ease ahead of their Breton rivals.
While Grégoire Puel, son of Nice coach Claude, made his L1 bow, 16-year-old Neal Maupay enhanced his reputation with the only goal of the game as Puel's men registered a third successive away win by defeating SC Bastia, who made an unhappy return to their Stade Armand Cesari after some two-and-a-half months. Their mood would not have been lightened by fellow strugglers Stade de Reims bouncing back from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's early goal (10') - his fourth Ligue 1 strike in as many outings - to pick up a point thanks to Gaëtan Courtet's equaliser (76') against AS Saint-Etienne on Sunday, a result which means Nice reclaimed fourth-place from Les Verts.
Bastia's defeat allowed their Corsican neighbours AC Ajaccio and fellow strugglers Stade Brestois 29 to take a positive step in the battle against relegation as they played out a 1-1 draw in Brittany. While the hosts ended a run of four straight losses, Dennis Oliech's second goal in three starts for the visitors means Ajaccio are yet to lose in six games in 2013 under new coach Albert Emon. Betao's first goal for Evian-Thonon-Gaillard was not enough to prevent Pascal Dupraz's men slipping to a 2-1 defeat at FC Lorient, who remain in contention for fourth and qualification for the Europa League, while bottom pair ESTAC Troyes and AS Nancy-Lorraine both lost.
While the latter fell victim to Montpellier Hérault SC's formidable home form - Emanuel Herrera's first-half goal gave the L1 champions a seventh successive league triumph at the Stade de la Mosson - Troyes looked on course for a first away win of the campaign as they led 2-0 with five minutes left at Toulouse FC. However, Eden ben Basat's first strike for his new club (86') and an own-goal from Benjamin Nivet (88'), just five minutes after the veteran midfielder had given his team a two-goal cushion, meant bitter disappointment for Jean-Marc Furlan's men.