Week 30 review: OL reignite race for third, PSG roll on
By S. Willis
OL's remarkable 3-2 win in Marseille took them within two points of third place, reigniting the race for the Champions League play-off berth, while leaders PSG maintained their advantage atop the table with a 2-1 win in Nice.
The two sides had rather contrasting recent records as they headed into Sunday night's Olympico - Marseille were unbeaten in four in all competitions and coming off qualification for the Europa League quarter-finals while visitors OL had won just once in their last seven in the league and were still smarting from a European exit - but OL managed to turn the formbook on its head, win 3-2 thanks to Memphis Depay's stunning late strike and reignite the race for third.
"This victory feels good. This was a gutsy win," said OL captain Anthony Lopes, whose side came from a goal down to win it in the 90th minute. "We can breathe a sigh of relief, we're back within two points of Marseille and the race for the podium is officially back on. After [European elimination at the hands of] Moscow, we realised what we had missed, what we had failed to do. We remobilised and showed a really great mentality here. We had to show up tonight, and we did."
Garcia: 'Did not defend well'
OM boss Garcia had seen his side open the scoring and then clinch what seemed like a draw when substitute Kostas Mitroglou hit his second in as many games, but was disappointed that his side let it slip.
"There are things that worked well and others not so well. I think there is shared responsibility for this defeat. We were tired. I felt we were on the back foot and we did not defend well. Not only the defense, but also the team as a whole, where we left too much space between our lines and lost some important duels," said the Marseille coach, evidently keen to do some fine-tuning over the next fortnight. "The international break is a welcome one."
A first for Alves
Meanwhile leaders Paris Saint-Germain cemented their grip on top spot with a 2-1 win in Nice, Unai Emery's men struggling somewhat early on before Angel Di Maria cancelled out Allan Saint-Maximin's opener, paving the way for Dani Alves to clinch the result with a late header - his first goal for Paris in Ligue 1 Conforama - that clinched a ninth-straight league win.
"It's true that we lost the title here last year and it was as match every bit as difficult as last season's. My team responded well," said Emery, whose side must focus on domestic issues following their Champions League exit two weeks ago. "We have reacted well since the Real loss. I'm going to take it match by match and we have the Coupe de la Ligue final against Monaco, the Coupe de France to play and the end of the league season. I'm making the most of every moment with this team."
Monaco march on
Paris Saint-Germain now boast a 17-point lead over second-placed Monaco, although the capital club have played a match more - they prevailed 2-1 in their Week 31 clash with Angers, brought forward to fit in with March 31's Coupe de la Ligue final between PSG and Monaco.
Leonardo Jardim's men, who will play their rearranged Week 31 fixture away to Rennes on Wednesday, April 4, did their best to keep pace with the leaders - and keep Marseille at arm's length - by clinching a 2-1 win over LOSC. Stevan Jovetic and Rony Lopes were on the scoresheet once again, leaving Christophe Galtier's imperiled side in 19th with eight matches left to play.
Rennes ruffle Bordeaux's feathers
Stade Rennais struck a blow in the race for fifth - the final European qualification place - by triumphing 2-0 at the Matmut Atlantique, with Bordeaux old boys Wahbi Khazri and Yoann Gourcuff combining for the second. The initial thrill looks to have died down following the arrival of Bordeaux coach Gustavo Poyet and the Girondins now have three losses in a winless run of five in the league, slipping to 11th, while Rennes sit in fifth on the back of four wins in an unbeaten run of six.
Just a point behind the Brittany outfit sit regional rivals Nantes, who had Valentin Rongier to thank for a 1-1 draw away to bottom club Metz, cancelling out as he did Nolan Roux's 12th goal in his best season in a decade.
Montpellier are also looking to stay in the race for fifth, and Michel Der Zakarian's men have the firepower to do so - as midfielder Ellyes Skhiri's screamer from range showed - but Dijon's Wesley Saïd was in clinical mood and the resulting 2-2 draw kept both sides mid-table.
The Toko-Ekambi show
Angers SCO's Karl Toko-Ekambi has been in excellent form in front of goal and this weekend was no exception, the Cameroon striker hitting his 16th of the season in a 3-0 win over SM Caen. The sides are now locked on 35 points, along with EA Guingamp, whose 2-0 loss to in-form Saint-Etienne - their third consecutive defeat in winless run of six - has alarm bells well and truly ringing.
Amiens managed to keep their heads above water with a 1-1 draw against Troyes, as did Toulouse, whose thrilling 2-2 draw with Strasbourg - which featured an excellent brace from Yaya Sanogo - left them a point clear of the drop in 17th.