Marseille kept alive their hopes of winning the French title on Sunday with an impressive 3-0 victory over bitter but ailing rivals Paris Saint Germain which saw visiting fans boycott it because of what they saw as over the top security measures.
Goals by Hatem Ben Arfa, record-signing Lucho Gonzalez and Benoit Cheyrou handed Marseille an easy win which sees them in fourth place in the league, three points adrift of leaders Bordeaux, though they have played a game more than the champions.
Montpellier are on the same number of points, after beating Rennes 3-1 on Saturday, as Bordeaux but trail on goal difference and have played two more matches as the leaders game with relegation-threatened Le Mans was called off due to severe weather conditions.
Earlier Lille had missed a chance to keep the pressure on Bordeaux and Montpellier when they slipped to a 2-1 home defeat by Auxerre.
The Lille management probably would have preferred that the referee had had his way and called the match off at its original kick-off time because of a water-logged pitch.
However, it was judged to be fit for play at the delayed kick-off time and the hosts bore the look of a team that was still weary from its impressive 1-1 away draw with Turkish giants Fenerbahce on Thursday which saw them progress to the last 16 of the Europa League.
Auxerre’s Roy Contout was the standout of the match as the 25-year-old French Guyana-born striker grabbed a double to give the visitors the three points and move them into sixth in the table, six points off Bordeaux, though having played a game more.
Lille’s highly-rated teenage Belgian international midfielder Eden Hazard had pulled them level but the hosts were unable to repeat the trick once Contout had restored Auxerre’s lead in the 72nd minute.
Lille coach Rudi Garcia refused to concede that their chances of the title had evaporated in what was their first defeat after eight successive wins.
“What we have failed to take this evening (Sunday) we have to get away from home, beginning with St-Etienne,” said Garcia.
“There are 36 points still up for grabs. The title race is a long one, and the title was not decided this evening. We are up there with the leaders and we have to bounce back from this.”
His Auxerre counterpart Jean Fernandez praised Contout but accepted that the quality of the pitch had suited his side better than their opponents.
“We played to our strong point, ie in terms of our workrate.
“Lille created several chances from freekicks which we saved, but we held our nerve and we were good in the aerial battle.
“The pitch did not do Lille any favours to be fair. They were also tired, notably in the second-half because they have played five matches in three weeks. We have achieved something this evening. Lille came into this match on the back of eight successive victories, 12 if you take all competitions.”