Marseille moved a step closer to their first league title in 17 years on Wednesday after goals from Mamadou Niang and Brandao brought a 2-0 win at local rivals Nice to send the southerners three points clear of the pack.
Niang bagged the opener with a fine shot on the turn after 26 minutes before Brazilian Brandao, who has averaged a goal every other game since his arrival from Shakhtar Donetsk mid-season, made the points safe on the hour.
An end to end move saw home keeper Steve Mandanda feed Hatem Ben Arfa, who found Taye Taiwo down the left flank. The Nigerian quickly picked out the lurking Brandao, who nodded in.
Marseille moved onto 71 points from 35 games after their 20th league win of the campaign, but Bordeaux were out to draw level on points with a win in the late match at Valenciennes.
Marseille chairman Pape Diouf was buoyant after a potentially vital win.
“This is a significant victory at one of the toughest places we have had to visit. But we have three still finals to negotiate – I’m banking on Bordeaux winning their last three matches,” Diouf explained.
As the top two chase down the automatic Champions League slots, reigning champions Lyon may have to make do with a shot at the qualifiers.
An eighth straight league title still looks beyond them despite Tuesday’s 3-0 home stroll over relegation-threatened Nantes at the Gerland stadium.
Lyon have 64 points with three games remaining – but the seven-point gap with Marseille now looks too great to close even if the former can win their outstanding tussle with the former European champions.
Jean II Makoun bagged two of Lyon’s goals, following an early header with a neat strike on 35 minutes as Claude Puel’s team rallied following a three-match goalless spell and four-game run without a win.
Anthony Mounier’s header 11 minutes from time completed the one-way traffic.
Paris Saint Germain moved to within a point of Lyon after Mateja Kezman scored Wednesday’s only goal at Le Mans.
Eight-times champions Nantes’ loss at Lyon suggests they will now struggle to beat the dreaded drop with just 33 points from their 35 games – especially as fellow former giants Saint Etienne won 4-2 at relegated Le Havre to move three points clear of the Canaries.
Saint Etienne, the biggest club in France in the mid-1970s when Michel Platini was the swashbuckling mainstay of the team, moved out of the bottom three, two points clear of Caen, who lost 1-0 to a Rennes side still harbouring hopes of clinching a place in the new Europa League.
Le Havre briefly led before succumbing to late efforts from Mirallas and Riviere as the hosts suffered their 25th defeat of the season to confirm their bottom placing.
Following them down will be any two from Caen, Nantes, Sochaux – who beat Monaco 3-0 to go level on 36 points with Saint Etienne, ‘Les Verts’ themselves and Le Mans, still not out of the wood after their home loss to PSG.
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