Week 33 review: OL go second as PSG save gas for City
By S. Willis
Olympique Lyonnais made good on their threats to displace Monaco in second place, winning 2-0 in Montpellier while the principality club fell 4-1 away to LOSC; PSG won despite nine changes ahead of Tuesday's clash in Manchester.
Ironically enough, Monaco's grip on second place has been looking shaky ever since Leonardo Jardim's men beat Paris Saint-Germain at the Parc des Princes in Week 31, while Olympique Lyonnais have gone from strength to strength since becoming the first side to prevail over the Ligue 1 champions back in Week 28.
Come a long way...
Following youngster Maxwell Cornet's quick-fire brace (34', 40') to clinch a 2-0 win in Montpellier on Friday night, OL have eight wins and a draw from their last ten Ligue 1 outings and have climbed from tenth place to now sit in second, ahead of Monaco on goal difference (+20 compared to +8).
"The important thing was to take the three points. That has take us into second place and allows us to put even more pressure on our rivals who will play later in the weekend. I'm very satisfied with the result," said OL boss Bruno Génésio, whose other source of satisfaction was a successful return to action for the fit-again Nabil Fekir. "When you're sidelined for so long, it's always an important moment when you return to action. We need all hands on deck in this home stretch of the season."
Dogue day afternoon for Monaco
Following OL's win, Monaco were under pressure to get a result away to Lille, but Les Dogues have been on something of a tear under new boss Frédéric Antonetti and claimed their fifth-straight win with a 4-1 pasting of the principality club, confirming their transition from a side with relegation concerns to a side now sitting in seventh with designs on a European place.
Ben Arfa takes care of business
Lille are now breathing down the necks of Saint-Etienne - who stayed in the European race with a 1-0 win over relegated Troyes - and Stade Rennais, who had four wins in their last five outings before they were stopped dead in their tracks by the brilliance of Hatem Ben Arfa, who reasserted his case for inclusion in France's Euro 2016 squad with a superb hat-trick to clinch a 3-0 home win for Les Aiglons. The win took them two points clear of their opponents on the night and into fourth.
Large fish to fry
Meanwhile Paris Saint-Germain's European concerns - namely a Champions League quarter-final second leg away to Manchester City on Tuesday night, in which they will be looking to bounce back from the 2-2 first-leg draw conceded at home last week - weighed heavily on coach Laurent Blanc's choices as he made nine changes to his starting line-up in the 2-0 win in Guingamp.
Brazilian Lucas Moura was one of the more senior players on display - youth academy graduates Jean-Kevin Augustin and Hervin Ongenda rounded out the three-man attacking line - and he shouldered the responsibility well, bagging a brace to stretch Paris' lead to 28 points and prove that the team can get results even without the big-name stars.
"It proves that our philosophy, the way we want to play, is something that really concerns everyone and everyone understands what we want to do, even players who play less or who have come in from the reserves," said Blanc. "It is always good to win, for the morale and for the players too, because let's not forget that some of those who played here will certainly play at Man City too. So it is a good thing for them to gain some confidence and get some playing time, because Tuesday is going to be a big match."
OM still in the mire
Marseille did their hopes of calming their disgruntled fans and pulling away from the drop zone - the southern giants are just six points clear of GFC Ajaccio in 18th - little good as they were held to a 0-0 draw at home to Bordeaux, a result that new Girondins boss Ulrich Ramé believes officially secured their top-flight safety.
GFC Ajaccio also claimed a point, in a 0-0 draw in Angers, but coach Stéphane Moulin's side would have been hoping for more, especially as they had a chance to break out of the bottom three with a win should 17th-placed Stade de Reims have failed to win. However, the Champagne club claimed a rousing 2-1 victory at home to FC Nantes to put two points between them and the Corsican club.
Ben Yedder brilliance
A fact made all the more worrying after Toulouse turned in one of the performances of the weekend to hammer SC Bastia 4-0 at The Stadium, Wissam Ben Yedder scoring two (57', 80') and setting the other two up - for Martin Braithwaite (62') and Oscar Trejo (70') - to continue the club's resurgence under new coach Pascal Dupraz. The TFC are now just three points shy of safety.