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Week 35 review: Neymar back; LOSC and OL share spoils

Publish on 06/05/2019 at 00:00 - S. WILLIS

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Paris Saint-Germain were held by OGC Nice, although Neymar Jr. raced onto 50 goals in just 57 games, while behind the champions, LOSC and Olympique Lyonnais shared the spoils in their European six-pointer.

It has been curious few weeks for PSG, who raced towards their eighth Ligue 1 Conforama title before suffering a recent stutter, the 1-1 draw at home to OGC Nice meaning Thomas Tuchel's side have only won one of their last seven in all competitions.

'Extraordinary till the race was over'

"It's a weird phase," explained the coach after Neymar's penalty had cancelled out Ignatius Ganago's opener at the Parc des Princes. "We're not happy with our game right now. We lack rhythm, aggression and speed. I understand it. It shows how extraordinary my team were until the race was over."

Neymar nonetheless reached 50 goals in all competitions in record time for the capital club, and Tuchel is relieved to have the Brazil captain back after a metatarsal injury.

"He's just returned and I'm quite surprised because he played 120 minutes against Rennes [in the Coupe de France final last Saturday] and 90 minutes against Montpellier [on Tuesday]," he said. "He played a full game here too, and, unfortunately, he couldn't score that second goal. It's a pity but he's doing well, and all dangerous play comes from Neymar."

If PSG lack a tangible goal, the one in front of LOSC and Lyon is crystal clear: join PSG in qualifying for next season's UEFA Champions League group stages, without having to negotiate the third qualifying round if possible.

LOSC on course for second

Lille coach Christophe Galtier and opposite number Bruno Génésio had both described Sunday's match at the Groupama Stadium as a cup final before kick-off, and neither side gave an inch.

Martin Terrier opened the scoring for Lyon but goals from Loïc Rémy and Boubakary Soumaré - the latter's first in the French top flight - looked to have given Les Dogues all three points. Léo Dubois levelled though, though, meaning both can still finish second, although LOSC are favourites with their six-point cushion.

"We took a big step but it's not mathematically guaranteed," said Galtier at full-time. "We're at home twice then play in Rennes on the final day. We have a good goal-difference, which is important. Everything is possible but we'll stay focused. I wasn't surprised by [Soumaré]. It's Bouba. He improves month after month."

Sainté maintain pressure

A third-place finish means potential Champions League participation, while fourth goes into the UEFA Europa League. Lyon's draw means that their Derby du Rhône rivals AS Saint-Etienne closed the gap to them to just a single point with their 3-2 win over AS Monaco, although they were made to work by the 2016-17 French champions.

Gelson Martins' opener had the principality club in the ascendancy for the best part of an hour, but ASSE, thanks in no small part to Rémy Cabella contributing a goal and an assist, fought back to score three times before Carlos Vinicius scored an injury-time consolation.

"Only Saint-Etienne can stop Saint-Etienne from qualifying for Europe!" said Les Verts coach Joan-Louis Gasset, somewhere between relieved and exasperated. "Cabella was great, especially decisive. He wants to go to the European cup. We're at home twice now [against Montpellier Hérault SC and Nice]. We know our fans will get behind us for these two real finals at the Geoffroy Guichard."

Guingamp gone?

At the other end of the table, EA Guingamp and SM Caen might both see it as two points dropped after their relegation six-pointer at the Stade de Roudourou, although the Bretons had the better of the play in the 0-0 draw. Eight points from safety with nine points left to play for, their six-year stay in the French top-flight might nevertheless be up.

"Both teams played with fear; but they had more of the ball," said Caen coach Fabien Mercadal. "We've played much worse than this before now," concurred his opposite number Jocelyn Gourvennec. "But Caen defended a lot and took the point they wanted. There are still nine points to take. It'll be difficult, but Guingamp won't make it difficult."

Nantes cut the mustard

Dijon FCO dropped all three points open the them, meanwhile. Les Rouges were giving as good as they got at FC Nantes until the second half, when goals from Abdoulaye Touré, Kalifa Coulibaly and Valentin Rongier saw them come undone. The result leaves them two points adrift of Caen, who are in the relegation play-off place.

Also dropping points were European aspirants Montpellier and Olympique de Marseille, whose hopes will be mathematically dashed if ASSE can win against La Paillade next Friday.

European hopes dashed?

Montpellier needed an 81st minute strike from Florent Mollet to salvage a 1-1 draw at home to Amiens SC, although Andy Delort was unlucky to see what looked to be an injury-time winner ruled out for offside.

Marseille had taken a 1-0 lead at RC Strasbourg Alsace's Stade de la Meinau through Valère Germain, meanwhile, but Kenny Lala snatched an equaliser for Le Racing, who will play in Europe next season by virtue of being Coupe de la Ligue champions.

Other business

Also planning an assault on the UEFA Europa league next term are Stade Rennais FC, who beat PSG on penalties in the Coupe de France final last Saturday. The Bretons played out a 2-2 draw at Toulouse FC on Sunday, with both playing for little more than pride.

Elsewhere, promoted Nîmes Olympique leapfrogged Stade de Reims into eighth with a resounding 3-0 win at the Stade Auguste Delaune, and Angers SCO beat Girondins de Bordeaux 1-0, Stéphane Bahoken getting the only goal of the game at the Matmut Atlantique.