Highlights

Round 36 review: LOSC pull clear!

Publish on 10/05/2021 at 09:00 - S. WILLIS

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With just two matches left to play, LOSC have a three-point lead atop the Ligue 1 Uber Eats standings, a Burak Yilmaz double clinching derby victory over Lens while second-placed PSG were held 1-1 in Rennes. Has the 2020-21 title been decided?

High drama in France in Round 36 as LOSC emerged from what many considered to be the toughest challenge of their season run-in - away to bitter derby rivals and in-form surprise package Lens on Friday night - emphatic 3-0 winners to put all the pressure on chasers PSG.

King Burak does it again

Little surprise that it was Turkish veteran Burak Yilmaz who did the damage, first from the spot and then with a superb long-range effort that took his season tally to 15 - bettered only by a certain Cristiano Ronaldo among players 35 and over in Europe's top five leagues - before Jonathan David completed the potentially decisive win.

"Of course, after this win, we're getting closer to the title. We have two matches left and we've taken a big step," said David, whose side will be favourites against both Saint-Etienne and Angers in their last two matches of the season. "The hardest bit is to come, every game is difficult. We have dropped points in games in which we were the favourites this season. We'll have to stay focussed right to the end. If we get too carried away, anything can happen."

Lost ground

The win was enough to guarantee Les Dogues at least a one-point lead over PSG come the end of the round, but it turned into something more significant when the capital club were held to a 1-1 draw in Rennes, Serhou Guirassy cancelling out Neymar Jr's penalty - and putting a dampener on the news of the Brazilian's contract extension through to 2025 - at Roazhon Park on Sunday night.

"It was a very difficult game. I think in the end, a draw was a fair result. We didn't show enough to win the game and they played well. We are all disappointed because today was a must-win game and we didn't offer the performance that we expected," said coach Mauricio Pochettino before looking ahead to Wednesday's Coupe de France semi-final away to Montpellier. "The next match against Montpellier? We have to press on; we need to move forward. We cannot wait and it's our responsibility and our obligation to always be ready for the next match."

PSG face reims at the Parc des Princes in Round 37 before travelling to Brest on the final day of the season, and will need to win both fixtures - while also hoping for LOSC to lose at least once - in order to keep their title hopes alive. The good news for the Parisians is that, in the event of finding themselves locked on points with Lille at the end of Round 38, goal difference (+52 compared to LOSC's +40) will almost certainly see them come out on top and defend their Ligue 1 Uber Eats title.  

Monaco, OL locked in Champions League stoush

Meanwhile third-placed Monaco kept up the pressure and went within two points of PSG as Belgian teenager Eliot Matazo hit his first-ever Ligue 1 Uber Eats goal to clinch a 1-0 win in Reims, but it wasn't enough to shake Lyon - who were missing Memphis Depay as well as all their central defenders - off their tail.

Rudi Garcia's side marked the veteran coach's 400th match in a Ligue 1 Uber Eats dugout by hammering Lorient 4-1, Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes justifying his return to the starting line-up with a brace - while Houssem Aouar conjured a superb strike - to help keep their side just a point shy of Monaco and well in the hunt for a Champions League finish.

This is my first brace with Lyon," said the 23-year-old, who earned his first cap for Brazil in 2020. "I'm happy about this. We did our job to put pressure on Monaco and the others. Our goal remains to qualify for Champions League."

OM lose but take pole for Europe as Montpellier, Nice win thrillers

Meanwhile the race for the last UEFA Europa League place intensified as Lens' defeat at home to LOSC saw them leapfrogged into fifth by Marseille, who went ahead of the northerners - on goal difference - despite being beaten 1-0 away to Saint-Etienne. The duo are only one point clear of Rennes, however, the draw with PSG reviving the European hopes for Bruno Genesio's side, who have lost just once in their last eight outings (four wins).

Although eighth-placed Montpellier have a mathematical chance of catching Marseille, the cup would seem to be their most likely path to European football next season. Nonetheless, Michel Der Zakarian's men turned in a sparkling attacking performance to beat Strasbourg 3-2 on Sunday, the deadly duo of Gaëtan Laborde and Andy Delort scoring all three goals - in spectacular fashion - to leave their opponents just a point clear of the drop.

Driven by a stellar display from three-assist hero Alexis Claude-Maurice, Nice turned in one of their best performances of the season to trump Brest 3-2, while Angers stopped an alarming four-match losing streak - and secured top-flight survival - with a 3-0 win over already relegated Dijon.

Glimmers of hope

Nantes, who beat Atlantic derby rivals Bordeaux 3-0, were big winners, the 18th-placed side gaining ground on Lorient, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Brest and Reims - all losers in Round 36 - in a jam-packed bottom half of the table where just five points separate 13th from the relegation play-off place that Les Canaris currently occupy.

Nineteenth-placed Nîmes weren't to be outdone, however, and claimed a crucial 3-0 win away to Metz to keep their survival hopes alive, mathematically at least, ahead of huge clashes against Lyon and Rennes in their last two matches of the season.

 

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