WEEK 33 REVIEW: PSG take Nice step towards title
By I. Holyman
Paris Saint-Germain bounced back from their midweek Coupe de France disappointment to beat OGC Nice and take a big step towards the Ligue 1 title in Week 33 while the race for a podium place remains white-hot.
Carlo Ancelotti was furious with his side following their penalty shoot-out cup exit at Evian on Wednesday, and having passed up the chance to do the domestic double, the Italian had clearly hammered home the message that the French crown must not also be allowed to slip away. His reward was a consummate performance at the Parc des Princes as his team recorded their sixth successive home truimph in beating European hopefuls OGC Nice 3-0. "I don't understand how we can be so bad against Evian and so good this evening. We have to improve our consistency," said Ancelotti, who saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic score from the spot after Nice 'keeper David Ospina had been dismissed, the Swede's 27th goal of the L1 campaign (65') sandwiched by strikes from Jérémy Ménez (10') and Clément Chantôme (88'). "Tonight's match was important. We've got a nine-point lead again, which means the title is closer."
That is a view no doubt shared by Olympique de Marseille coach Elie Baup, who had already all but conceded the title to PSG before his side took on Stade Brestois 29 on Saturday, the game moved forward 24 hours to prevent Nice and PSG fans converging on the capital along with AS Saint-Etienne and Stade Rennais FC suppporters for Saturday's Coupe de la Ligue final. Benoît Cheyrou's free-kick - the very last action of the first half - provided OM with an 11th 1-0 win of the campaign, and kept them three points clear of Olympique Lyonnais, 2-1 victors at Montpellier Hérault 24 hours previously to temporarily assume second place.
With Nice beaten and Saint-Etienne playing their game in hand - at home to AC Ajaccio - on Wednesday, LOSC Lille took advantage to sneak into fourth place, extending their unbeaten run to ten games in dramatic fashion in sunny Bastia on Sunday afternoon. Though Wahbi Khazri (47') put the hosts ahead, Lucas Digne beat former Lille goalkeeper Mickaël Landreau with a thunderous strike to level (86') before Marko Basa lunged to turn in Benoît Pedretti's clever pass two minutes into added time.
Aliadière once again
FC Lorient, beaten 5-0 at Lille recently before overturning Bastia 4-1 last weekend, produced a more sobre display to triumph 1-0 at Toulouse FC - Jérémie Aliadière taking advantage of a glaring error of judgement from home goalkeeper Olivier Blondel to snap up a 15th goal of an unexpectedly prolific season (77'). While the victory means Christian Gourcuff's men can still hope to grab a European qualifying place, Girondins de Bordeaux are unlikely to take part in continental competition even though Cheick Tidiane Diabaté's textbook header (78') secured them a point at FC Sochaux-Montbéliard.
The Malian forward's goal had more significance for the hosts who - after their 2-2 draw with the side of former coach Francis Gillot - found themselves in the bottom three after AS Nancy-Lorraine brought Coupe semi-finalists Evian down to earth. After Paul Alo'o Efoulou's opener (21') had been cancelled out by Saber Khlifa (34'), Benjamin Moukandjo struck twice (65', 80') to take Patrick Gabriel's men out of the relegation zone for the first time in seven months.
Their revival from eight points adrift of safety at the winter break will give bottom side ESTAC Troyes hope, especially as Jean-Marc Furlan's side have a game in hand to play at Rennes on Wednesday, though the nine-point gap they need to make up in the remaining five matches looks a huge task. While they and Brest look the least likely to survive, the third relegation place remains open with five teams within six points of 18th-placed Sochaux. Valenciennes FC will, however, feel they have done enough to avoid the drop with Grégory Pujol's second-half strike giving them a first victory in nine L1 outings and leaving Week 33 hosts Stade de Reims in trouble.