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Lyon extend league lead as Marseille stumble

SoccerNews in Ligue 1 27 Sep 2008

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Lyon stretched their lead at the top of the French first division to six points on Saturday after Karim Benzema inspired a 2-1 victory over Nancy and second-placed Marseille stumbled at Le Mans.

It was Marseille who got off to the perfect start when Hatem Ben Arfa gave them the lead with a strong, sixth-minute strike.

The rising France international held off brusque challenges and finished off a mazy penalty box run to slot the opener past Yohann Pele.

But Le Mans, fourth in the championship, levelled after five minutes when new Norwegian signing Thorstein Helstad pounced on a defensive error.

In Saturday's other big match, yet another French starlet Benzema orchestrated a strong Lyon, first-half surge, scoring the opener and lending a hand in the second.

Benzema, the country's leading goalscorer, oozed confidence and composure to drive a low effort under Gennaro Bracigliano in the 30th minute, as the 20-year-old fulfills his tag of the new Zidane.

The seven-time champions – without star Brazilian Juninho and suspended Sidney Govou – made it two six minutes later when Fred latched onto a snappy pass to double the lead.

The Brazilian Fred, linked with a move to the English Premier league, will have done his contract talks no harm with the athletic way he bagged his second of the season.

The advantage was not to last, however, as Nancy hit one back from the kick-off, when Pascal Berenguer punished lazy Lyon defending with a well-taken shot.

Lyon coach Claude Puel said after the match that Benzema, who came off in the 59th minute with an ankle injury, was not in a serious condition.

“He is suffering from a knock on his right ankle and there has not been a twist,” Puel said. “We will take stock on Sunday but I don't think there is a worry about his participation against Bayern in the Champions League on Tuesday.”

Meanwhile Marseille coach Eric Gerets paced anxiously up and down the sideline as his charges struggled to regain the lead in the second half.

He brought on Boudewijn Zenden in the 82nd minute and the former Liverpool player almost made a sensational impact, forcing a tip-over from Pele.

But it was other substitute Mamadou Samassa who could have had a say in the game's outcome but his header was adjudged not to have crossed the line. It proved to be a controversial decision.

It was a good night for national coach Raymond Domenech, as another of his young hopefuls, Jimmy Briand, fired Rennes to a good home win against Nice.

Mevlud Erding scored a late – and lifeline-giving – equaliser for bottom team Sochaux against Lorient, while Caen cruised 3-0 to second-bottom Nantes. Auxerre had a well-deserved 3-0 win over strugglers Le Havre.

Paris Saint Germain were playing promoted Grenoble in Saturday's late game.

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