Week 32 review: OL strike blow in race for second
By S. Willis
Olympique Lyonnais moved to within three points of second-placed Monaco with a gutsy come-from-behind win in Lorient; Paris Saint-Germain warmed up for their Champions League clash with Manchester City by dominating Nice.
After sitting as low as 11th at the end of January, Olympique Lyonnais have bounced right back under new boss Bruno Génésio and - after showing impressive mental strength to get the better of Lorient 3-1 in Brittany - are now closer than ever to claiming second place and the direct Champions League berth that goes with it.
The plot thickens!
With AS Monaco falling 2-1 at home to Bordeaux on Friday evening in new Girondins boss Ulrich Ramé's first victory since replacing Willy Sagnol two weeks ago, OL knew they could strike a blow in their bid for second. And although they fell behind to Majeed Waris' tenth of the season (35'), Génésio's men hit back through Alexandre Lacazette (44', 84') and Rachid Ghezzal (81') - with France international Mathieu Valbuena impressing off the bench after returning from injury.
"This is a very welcome victory, especially as it came away from home and after we had fallen behind. We're now just three points adrift of Monaco," said Génésio. "What's for sure is that we have our destiny in our own hands, because if we win our last six matches, we will finish in second place."
Dembélé does it again
Lyon aren't the only ones eyeing off Monaco's berth, especially after Stade Rennais climbed to fourth with a 3-1 win over struggling Stade de Reims, who now sit 17th, above the drop zone only thanks a narrow goal-difference advantage. Teenage sensation Ousmane Dembélé took his season tally to 12 goals with a brace as the Brittany side, resurgent under new boss Rolland Courbis, went to within a point of Lyon four points of Monaco.
Ibra: 'The team is doing magical things'
OGC Nice have also been pushing for a top-three finish but Claude Puel's men hit a hurdle in Paris on Saturday afternoon as a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagged a hat-trick to take his season goal tally level with his personal best in France - 30 - and hand his side a 4-1 win that was the perfect preparation for the capital club's crunch Champions League quarter-final first leg at home to Manchester City on Wednesday night.
"I think it was a good match," said the giant Swede, whose future at the club beyond his current deal - which expires in June - is still uncertain. "We played a good game ahead of Wednesday’s European match against City. It was a good preparation. We need to continue like this, with the same confidence, the same rhythm, and with a little bit of luck, we’ll get there. Personally, I feel good. The team is doing magical things this season and I’m just following them. They play well, so I play well.”
Les Verts bounce back
Meanwhile Saint-Etienne confirmed their return to form with a 2-0 win away to GFC Ajaccio, Nolan Roux (15') and Kévin Théophile-Catherine (58') doing the business to take Christophe Galtier's side into sixth place on the back of a second successive win after a run of six without a win in all competitions.
Les Verts are in with a chance of a return to Europa League football next season, but will have to watch out for resurgent Lille, for whom Portugal striker Eder bagged a brace to secure a 3-0 win in Nantes. The result, Les Dogues' fifth win in their last six Ligue 1 matches under new boss Frédéric Antonetti, was Nantes' third defeat in their last five and Les Canaris' drop into tenth place piles the pressure on coach Michel Der Zakarian.
Míchel under the pump
Another man under pressure - serious pressure - is Olympique de Marseille boss Míchel, whose team's away form had been the saving grace of the season before they came unstuck 2-1 away to SC Bastia on Sunday afternoon. Dutch stopper Karim Rekik kicked off the unfortunate afternoon with an own-goal (47', o.g.) and Gaël Danic's penalty (56', pen.) ended up clinching the points despite Michy Batshuayi's pulling one back (77').
Romain Alessandrini's red card for retaliation five minutes from time was clincher as the southern giants slipped another place to 13th just six points clear of the drop, locked on points with Lorient and Guingamp (15th), whose relegation six-pointer at home to Montpellier (16th) ended in a 2-2 draw that did little for either side's hopes of pulling away from danger.
Toulouse still swinging
Toulouse, meanwhile, pulled off a coup in their bid to break out of the bottom three as they toppled high-flying SM Caen 2-0 at The Stadium thanks to goals from Ronny Rodelin (30', o.g.) and Martin Braithwaite (84'). The TFC have responded well to the appointment of new coach Pascal Dupraz and this latest boost leaves them with five points to make up in their remaining six matches - only one of which is against a top-five side.
While Toulouse's dream is still alive, ESTAC Troyes are now officially returning to Ligue 1 next season, their 1-0 defeat at home to ninth-placed Angers SCO leaving them needing 19 points with only another 18 available.