Angel Di Maria

Round 23 review: Top two triumph as LOSC make ground

Publish on 06/02/2020 at 10h00 - S. WILLIS


PSG and OM both claimed mid-week victories to firm in first and second respectively, while LOSC drew to within three points of third by beating Rennes 1-0. Monaco got a first win for new coach Robert Moreno and TFC fell further adrift at the foot of the table.

There may have been no Neymar on hand when Paris Saint-Germain travelled to Nantes on Tuesday night, but Thomas Tuchel's star-studded side proved that they can still do a job as Mauro Icardi and Thilo Kehrer struck for a 2-1 win that kept the capital club a full 12 points clear in top spot.

Normal service in Neymar's absence?

Paris did end up conceding a late goal to Nigerian striker Moses Simon, but overall Tuchel liked what he saw as his side prepare for a league clash with Lyon on Sunday and the all-important UEFA Champions League last 16 clash with BvB Dortmund on 16 February.

"It was a difficult but on the whole, our performance was very good," said the PSG boss, for whom Neymar was ruled out with a rib cartilage injury sustained in the win over Montpellier at the weekend. "I really liked the way that we played in the first 70 minutes. The final 20 minutes, it's our fault that it was tight - we made a mistake - but it can happen. Then you need to react and adapt to the circumstances. And honestly, I am very happy."

PSG are hoping to have their star Brazilian - who has been involved in 19 goals in 14 Ligue 1 Conforama appearances (13 goals, six assists) - back in action for the Lyon clash at the Parc des Princes.

Payet sinks former club

Meanwhile second-placed OM were happy to get back to winning ways thanks to their star man, Dimitri Payet opening the scoring away to former club Saint-Etienne with a razor-sharp near-post finish before Nemanja Radonjic made sure of the 2-0 win that took them six clear of third-placed Rennes.

"We knew it was a week that could hurt us in the rankings. We hardly made any changes  in terms of the squad. It was a match in which we had to play smart. I told my team-mates that we mustn't concede a goal, in order to have the opportunity to counter-attack and score at the end of the game," explained Payet, whose highly improbable near-post opener will haunt Les Verts 'keeper Stéphane Ruffier for some time.

"I found myself about to cross the ball, but when I saw that the 'keeper was no longer on his line, I decided to strike. That put their heads under water. We were able to get a grip on the game. We played at home to all the big sides in the first half of the season, and now we have to collect points on the road."

Galtier: 'An important victory'

It has been an up-and-down week for Rennes who, after a thrilling late 3-2 win in the Brittany derby against Nantes on Friday, fell to a 1-0 defeat in Lille, a result that allowed Les Dogues to climb to within three points of their opponents on the night.

"We beat the third in the Championship, a very good team. It's an important victory for my players because it adds to the three points we took on Saturday in Strasbourg," said LOSC boss Christophe Galtier before moving to take pressure off his young side. "But I'm not focused on the standings or the gaps, I'm focused on the fact that my players are starting to win again, with a new spirit, a new state of mind. It's far too early to talk about second or third place."

Lyon held as crunch clash looms

Thanks to an impressive start to 2020, Lyon are also in the conversation for a podium finish but, with a huge challenge awaiting them at the Parc des Princes on Sunday, they needed to do better than draw 0-0 with Amiens after falling 2-1 to Nice at the weekend.

Teenage sensation Rayan Cherki showed glimpses of brilliance as he hit the post and then drew a sensational save from Régis Gurtner, but overall Rudi Garcia's side lacked inspiration getting forward - unlike Monaco forward Stevan Jovetic.

Jovetic uses his head

Latching onto Youssouf Fofana's long ball from the back, the Montenegro international conjured a brilliant backward header that beat Angers 'keeper Ludovic Butelle hands down and clinched a first win for new Monaco boss Robert Moreno, 1-0.

The win leaves the principality club narrowly inside the top half of the table, but with just four points between fifth-placed Montpellier and Angers in 13th, Monaco could be storming up the table with a win over Amiens at the weekend.

Draws of all kinds

Montpellier could have stayed within one point of fourth-placed LOSC had they not been held 1-1 by a resurgent FC Metz, while Reims and Nice also played out a stalemate, Pierre Lees-Melou opening the scoring and freshly extended Reims captain Yunis Abdelhamid levelling with his second in as many matches.

Bordeaux did all the scoring but emerged from their clash away to ten-man Brest with just a point after Ui-jo Hwang's powerfully headed opener was cancelled out by Loris Benito's own-goal ten minutes from time. Les Girondins now sit in 12th, ten points clear of the relegation zone.

Hope for Nîmes, tougher for Toulouse

Nîmes' survival hopes got a shot in the arm as Les Crocos claimed just a third home win of the season, 2-0 in a relegation six-pointer against Dijon. Winter signing Nolan Roux made sure of the three points with the comedy goal of the weekend as he rushed Dijon 'keeper Alfred Gomis just as he was re-starting play from his area.

Meanwhile Toulouse's hopes of digging their way out form under the entire division dimmed even further as Denis Zanko's men fell 1-0 at home to Strasbourg, winter signing Majeed Waris getting his first goal for Le Racing with a sharp close-range finish. Le Téfécé are now seven points adrift at the foot of the Ligue 1 Conforama table and 11 shy of 17th-placed Dijon.