Week 29 Review: And then there were four?
By I. Holyman
The Ligue 1 title race remains wide open after a nail-biting Week 29 in which the Olympico ended goalless and Paris Saint-Germain slipped up while AS Monaco continue to sneak up on the rails.
After their midweek Champions League heroics at Chelsea, Paris headed to Girondins de Bordeaux with the opportunity of leapfrogging Olympique Lyonnais at the top of the table with the league leaders playing at Olympique de Marseille later on Sunday.
They looked like they would pick up a point after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had twice equalised (50', 85' pen.), cancelling out goals from Lamine Sané (18') and Wahbi Khazri (70'). However, just three minutes after the Swedish superstar levelled from the spot, Diego Rolan found the net to keep Bordeaux in the race for Europe and dent Paris' title ambitions.
"We lost because Bordeaux deserved to win more than Paris, that's it! Don't look for reasons why we lost," Blanc told media, who wondered whether their European date had taken too much out of the Paris squad.
"It's clear that Paris were not so good, but that's all. You can highlight many things. Bordeaux deserved their win. We might have got a draw as we equalised twice. But it's true they dominated play. We were too fragile in our play, and above all lacked the technical quality which we usually have and which can explain a lot of things."
Despite suffering a second defeat of 2015, Paris remain in second place after the teams either side of them, leaders Lyon and third-placed Marseille, cancelled each other out at the Stade Vélodrome, meaning the top three are still separated by just four points.
Bielsa 'Intense game'
"I thought it was a very intense game, very good to watch even though there weren't any goals," said OM coach Marcelo Bielsa, who saw André-Pierre Gignac hit a post before Jérémy Morel's 85th-minute red card nearly gave Lyon the opportunity to take victory.
"For us, there were two different periods: one before the red card and one after. In those ten minutes, we were a little disorganised, but the preceding 85 minutes were satisfying from our team. I think that up till the sending-off, we deserved to win, but we couldn't quite reach out and take it. There are still 27 points left to take, and we haven't given up hope. It's our best game of the season apart from the last ten minutes."
Monaco lead the chasing pack behind the top three, and Leonardo Jardim's men warmed up for Tuesday's Champions League last 16 second leg tie with Arsenal with a confidence-boosting 3-0 win over SC Bastia, who ended with nine men. With Dimitar Berbatov rested, Anthony Martial took advantage to score twice (22', 51') either side of Matheus Carvalho's strike (42') while Layvin Kurzawa had a penalty saved to leave the principality club four points behind Marseille with a game in hand.
AS Saint-Etienne just held on to fifth after being given a major scare by bottom side FC Metz, who pushed Les Verts all the way before Christophe Galtier's side secured a 3-2 win that keeps them a point clear of Bordeaux. Montpellier Hérault SC remain in the hunt for a European qualifying place, a point further back, thanks in large part to the in-form Lucas Barrios. The Paraguay international striker took his tally to eight goals in seven league outings and ten strikes in all with a brace in his club's 3-1 win over Stade de Reims.
Origi back on form
Divock Origi had not scored since late September, but ended that miserable streak in impressive manner with his first Ligue 1 hat-trick (38', 63' pen., 72') to help LOSC Lille make it a maximum nine points from their last three league games with a 3-0 home win over Stade Rennais FC. Pablo Chavarria (77') scored the only goal of the game to give RC Lens a welcome victory over fellow strugglers Toulouse FC to end a run of four straight defeats and leave the northerners seven points adrift of safety.
Jordan Ayew (60') scored FC Lorient's decisive second goal as they won 2-1 at home to SM Caen, who had been reduced to ten men after just 16 minutes following Damien Da Silva's red card. That victory - Lorient's first after two straight losses - lifted Les Merlus above OGC Nice and Evian-Thonon-Gaillard FC who were both beaten 2-1 by En Avant Guingamp and FC Nantes respectively.