Week 31 review: Monaco assert credentials in PSG win
Monaco showed that they won't give an inch in the race for second, toppling champions PSG 2-0 in Paris, maintaining their lead over Nice and Lyon. Marseille suffered a humiliating 5-2 defeat to Rennes at the Stade Vélodrome.
Following Paris Saint-Germain's clinching the title with a whopping 9-0 win over Troyes last weekend, the capital club were looking to celebrate in front of their own fans at the Parc des Princes, but AS Monaco managed to spoil the party and hand PSG just their second defeat of the league season, 2-0, with a tenacious display.
Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim took a gamble by fielding a new-look five-man back-line with Brazilian defender Jemerson debuting as one of three centre-backs, and it paid off as the visitors took the best that Paris could hit them with and then pushed on in the second half, goals from Vagner Love (65'0 and Fabinho (68', pen.) securing the win that keeps ASM's chasers at arm's length.
"This is a very important win," said Jardim, proud of his players' belief and tenacity. "We managed to maintain our lead ahead of the chasers. Paris are a huge team, one of the four best in Europe. They can win the Champions League. My lads played a great game, and they all thoroughly deserved the win. In football, you never win nor lose a match before it's played. It's decided out on the pitch."
Puel: 'A complete performance'
Monaco's rivals for second wouldn't have baked on their taking three points in the capital, but had got the job done in anticipation, OGC Nice maintaining third place, five shy of Monaco, with a 3-0 win over GFC Ajaccio thanks to goals from Hatem Ben Arfa (14'), Alassane Pléa (66') and Jean Michael Seri (88').
"Our attitude was good, it was a complete performance," said Aiglons boss Claude Puel, whose side remain a point clear of Lyon. "We needed that against a good Ajaccio team. We didn't give them any chances. The players put in a lot of effort."
OL get there
Lyon were out to prove that their 2-2 draw in Rennes was an anomaly as they played host to in-form FC Nantes at the Parc OL on Saturday night, and although they struggled through 80 minutes of frustration, they finally managed to break down Les Canaris' defence in the final ten minutes to secure a precious win.
OL youth academy prospect Gaëtan Perrin was the unlikely source of the breakthrough, the 19-year-old substitute starting the move and then nodding Rachid Ghezzal's heavily deflected shot into an open goal for the first strike of his Ligue 1 career (83'). Alexandre Lacazette followed up from the spot in injury time to make certain sure of the result (90'+4).
With just five points separating third place from seventh, the race for the European places is well and truly on and Stade Rennais FC struck a huge blow in their quest for continental competition as they hammered Olympique de Marseille 5-2 at the Stade Vélodrome to climb to fifth, two points shy of Nice in third.
A star turn from Yoann Gourcuff, who pulled the strings in attack and scored two goals (4', 59'), was at the heart of the rout as Marseille's winless run at home - which dates back to mid-September - stretched to 13 matches. Up 3-0 after just 15 minutes, Rennes allowed OM back into the match but goals from Gourcuff and Giovanni Sio steered the result back Rennes way and piled even more pressure on OM boss Míchel, whose side haven’t won in the league since Week 24.
"Our players, with their qualities, tried everything. They are sad and badly affected, but I am not going to give up on them," said Míchel after declaring that he would not resign despite the openly hostile behaviour of the OM fans to wards their own team. "The decision is not my responsibility. I am not convinced that, if I left, the situation would improve. My job is to find solutions, both sporting and emotional ones, because the players are touched by this. Unlike in previous months, the stadium was against us. It is normal that the supporters are angry. We need to accept the criticism."
Gong not far off for Troyes
SM Caen got back to winning ways after last week's shock loss to GFC Ajaccio, Alaeddine Yahia (35') and Ronny Rodelin (54') wiping out Xavier Thiago's opener (22') for a 2-1 win over Troyes, whose could be officially relegated in Week 32. The victory puts the Normandy side into sixth, a point clear of Saint-Etienne, who broke a winless run that has lasted since Week 25 - with a 3-0 domination of Montpellier, who sit just three points clear of the drop.
Lille remain in the top half of the table (ninth) following a fourth win in five matches, 1-0 over Toulouse, while Angers were in emphatic mood at home to Lorient, handing Sylvain Ripoll's men a 5-1 hiding to claim tenth and send Les Merlus down two rungs to 13th.
New Girondins de Bordeaux coach Ulrich Ramé, brought in to replace Willy Sagnol earlier in the week, will have to wait for his first win after his side played out a 1-1 draw at home to SC Bastia, Axel Ngando grabbing a share of the spoils for the visitors (85') after Diego Contento had bagged a late opener (82').
Relegation-threatened Stade de Reims were looking to build on their hard-fought 2-2 draw in Monaco last week, but Guingamp had other ideas and Younousse Sankharé secured a 1-0 win (26') that leaves the Brittany club in 15th while Reims hover just above the drop zone in 17th, clear of GFC Ajaccio on goal difference.