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Week 31 review: Olympians, Sainté shine on Coupe weekend

Publish on 02/04/2018 at 00h00 - S. WILLIS

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As the top two fought it out in the Coupe de la Ligue - a 3-0 win for PSG over Monaco - third-place contenders OM and OL both got wins while Sainté emerged as European dark horses with a 3-0 win in Nantes.

The weekend action may have been re-jigged - PSG played and won their Week 31 clash with Troyes 2-1 on March 14 and AS Monaco will play theirs in Rennes on Wednesday, April 4 - but Ligue 1 Conforama fans still got a huge dose of drama and excitement as the races for the Champions League, Europa League and top-flight survival logged some important results.

Drama for OM

With leaders Paris Saint-Germain 17 points clear of second-placed AS Monaco (who have a game in hand), the battle for third place is taking on huge importance. Marseille got the job done - just - with a dramatic late 3-1 win over Dijon, Dimitri Payet scoring a late penalty to put some gloss on what was a tough match in Burgundy, while Memphis Depay took care of business for Lyon as they thumped Toulouse 2-0 at the Groupama Stadium.

"It's three important points," said the OM boss, who would doubtless have liked to go without injuries to Steve Mandanda and Adil Rami just days before their Europa League quarter-final first leg trip to battle RB Leipzig. "We started the game rather well, we led 1-0 at the break, and we showed character to go and get the win after Dijon had levelled."

Memphis on fire

Opposite number Bruno Genesio, for whom captain Nabil Fekir and co-top scorer Mariano Diaz were both absent, was pleased to see Depay - one of five players to bag a brace over the weekend - take his tally to 12 for the season but had hoped to pile more misery on Toulouse, who sit just a point above the relegation play-off spot.

"My only regret is that we didn't score more, especially after the break," said the OL boss, whose side are just two points shy of OM - whom they beat 3-2 in Week 30 - and the UEFA Champions League qualifiers place that goes with it. "We were good in the first half. We pressed high and had a lot of movement and quality. We were rewarded with two goals and we should have had two more after the break."

Sainté on a roll

Meanwhile Saint-Etienne confirmed their impressive resurgence under new coach Jean-Louis Gasset by thumping Nantes 3-0 at the Stade de la Beaujoire, stretching their unbeaten run to nine matches and confirming their spot in the top half of the table (9th) - just three points shy of fifth-placed Montpellier.

'We believe in ourselves," said Sainté forward Rémy Cabella, in bullish mood after marking his 200th Ligue 1 Conforama appearance with a superb goal he would certainly be hoping to replicate next weekend at home leaders PSG. "And what's more, we're unbeaten at home in 2018 and I'd like us to stay that way until the end of the season."  

Claudio Ranieri's Nantes, who have been in fifth place for most of the season, slip to eighth - just two points clear of Saint-Etienne and a point shy of fifth-placed Montpellier, sixth-placed Rennes (who have a match in hand against Monaco on Wednesday) and Nice in seventh.

Sio hitting straps

Tough-defending Montpellier have been grinding out draws of late but Michel Der Zakarian's men were on the front foot in Caen, Ivorian international Giovani Sio starring with two goals - his first Ligue 1 Conforama double, taking him to a career-high ten for the season - and an assist in a 3-1 dismantling of the Normandy side, who slip to 14th.

Galtier: 'I'll never give up'

So too OGC Nice's in-form hitman Alassane Pléa starred in the 2-0 win in Troyes, who sit in the relegation play-off spot (18th), just a point above a LOSC side in free-fall after falling 1-0 to promoted Amiens in a match played behind closed doors following a pitch invasion by disgruntled LOSC fans in Week 29. Christophe Galtier's 19th-placed side have gone eight matches without a win (five defeats) and the former Saint-Etienne boss knows something has to give.

"We cannot continue like this. There is still a slim chance [of beating the drop] - we might have to go through the play-offs," he declared after the dispiriting defeat that saw Amiens climb a place to 15th. "But I'm not convinced that my players still believe that. But even though I'm the only one who believes, I'll never give up."

Grenier on target

Bordeaux's woes continued with a 2-1 defeat in Guingamp, Clément Grenier getting things started with a superb free-kick - his first in almost two years - and Moustapha Diallo following up to leave Malcom's late - and extremely bizarre - penalty as scant consolation.

Wooden spoon contenders FC Metz may be six points shy of LOSC and eight shy of safety, but Frédéric Hantz's men were up for the fight at home to derby rivals Strasbourg, both sides ending up with ten men as blows were traded in this rock-em-sock-em encounter that saw Ernest Seka seal the 2-2 result (79').