Week 28 review: OM fire with top sides locked
By S. Willis
Marseille were the weekend's big winners, trumping Lorient 4-1 away to climb to sixth, while the title race remains poised following wins for Monaco, Paris and Nice, as does the race for fourth place after Lyon's 1-1 draw in Bordeaux.
After losses to Paris in the league and Monaco in the Coupe de France, Olympique de Marseille finally had a chance to showcase their improvement under new boss Rudi Garcia away to Lorient on Sunday afternoon, running out 4-0 winners in match that featured a sensational strike from prodigal son Dimitri Payet.
"What I said to the players at the end of the match was that it wasn't an easy game, but we made it one by scoring two goals inside 15 minutes. After that, we were able to press home our advantage," said Garcia, whose side leap-frogged Saint-Etienne into sixth place - appoint off Bordeaux and five shy of Lyon in fourth. "We shouldn't have conceded the goal we conceded, but we'll highlight the three points and that, despite the Coupe de France and the 120 minutes in the week, we finished the week well - that was the most important thing."
Mbappé keeps Monaco clear
Marseille weren't the only side to score four goals, leaders AS Monaco capping the weekend's action with a 4-0 win at home to FC Nantes. Rising star Kylian Mbappé bagged a brace to move to nine strikes for the season and help keep his side in top spot after a 13th win in 16 matches in all competitions.
"The first half wasn't so easy; this Nantes side transition well and press hard with four players up front. But, by scoring two more before half-time, we killed off the match," said coach Leonardo Jardim, who side are firing on all cylinders ahead of the return leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie at home to Manchester City on March 15. "Tonight we attacked well while staying organised. That's great. Kylian [Mbappé] is making progress - he is more clinical in the area, in his positioning and with his runs. I congratulated him when he came off."
Cavani on the spot as Barça loom
The result put Paris Saint-Germain three points adrift once more after the capital club had pulled provisionally level on points with a somewhat laboured 1-0 win at home to Nancy. Pablo Correa's side fought hard to highlight Paris' difficulties in breaking down defence-minded sides - as Niort did in the Coupe de France in mid-week - but Unai Emery's men got the job done as Ligue 1 top scorer Edinson Cavani struck from the spot (80').
"We picked up three important points for the championship. Three points are also psychologically useful for the match on Wednesday. We have to keep this spirit up," said Emery, wary despite Barcelona's needing a record-breaking win to overhaul PSG's 4-0 first-leg win and pip the capital club to a place in the Champions League quarters. "We played a good match, attacked a lot, although in defence we conceded two chances, but we'll try to improve. I'm happy for the team. The players are very motivated but the 90 minutes in Barcelona will be very hard."
Cyprien does it again
The win put Paris provisionally ahead of title rivals Nice, who played later in the evening, but Les Aiglons pulled back level thanks - once again - to a lone strike from highly rated young midfielder Wylan Cyprien, who took his season tally to eight in the 1-0 win in Dijon.
"We took three points. We're on 62 so it's a good victory! It was difficult but nothing is easy in Dijon. They were dangerous at times. We had to stay calm and patient," said Nice boss Lucien Favre, who had praise for his goal-scorer, who has struck to clinch 1-0 wins in three of the club's last five league outings, keeping them in the title picture and taking the pressure off an out-of-sorts front line. "Wylan Cyprien scored a fine goal. His timing was excellent."
OL come of better in European stalemate
Friday night's clash between Bordeaux and Lyon was a potentially decisive fixture in the race for fourth place - a win for the hosts would have got them to within two points of fourth-placed Lyon. While Valentin Vada had Jocelyn Gourvennec's men in the driver's seat after 16 minutes, young Argentine stopper Emmanuel Mammana replied late on with his first Ligue 1 strike to keep Les Gones five points clear of their nearest rivals.
Saint-Etienne's bid for a European finish stagnated further as they were held to a 0-0 away to a 19th-placed Bastia side looking to turn their season around under new coach Rui Almeida, while Rennes denied 15th-placed FC Metz three important points in their bid for safety as Wesley Saïd struck late for a 1-1 draw.
After sitting in 19th place towards the end of January, Angers moved into the top half of the table thanks to a 3-2 win in Caen - their fifth victory in a row in all competitions - to back up their winning through to the Coupe de France quarter-finals in mid-week. The win sets Stéphane Moulin's clear of Guingamp and Montpellier, who ground out a 1-1 draw in the south-west.
Toulouse were high-flyers early in the season and while they may not be winning as much as before, Pascal Dupraz's men have recovered from a tough start to 2017 and stretched their unbeaten run to six Ligue 1 matches with a 1-1 draw at home to LOSC. Yassine Benzia secured a precious point for Franck Passi's struggling side to further boost their confidence after having booked a Coup de France quarters berth in mid-week.