Two-goal Juninho hailed Lyon’s “test of character” as they came back from two goals down to win 3-2 against Nice and take top spot in the French league on Saturday.
A Karim Benzema penalty four minutes into injury-time earned the seven-times reigning champions the victory, putting them two points ahead of Marseille, who could only draw 1-1 at Bordeaux.
Habib Bamogo and Loic Remy had put Nice two goals ahead after the first 20 minutes, before goals from Juninho four minutes before the break and in the 74th minute, brought Lyon level.
With Sidney Govou and Benzema starting on the bench and Jeremy Toulalan rested, Lyon struggled at the start, with Nice making the most of their only two attacks to find goals against a Lyon still trying to find their shape defensively.
Bamogo, well fed by David Hellebuyck, got the better of Lyon keeper Hugo Lloris to find the net after just three minutes, before Remy got the second on 20 minutes, again making the most of a poor defensive performance, with Brazilian center-back Cris still to get near his best form.
Juninho reduced the deficit in the 40th minute from a free-kick and Benzema’s introduction at halftime had given Lyon yet another boost.
Juninho saw a free-kick headed on to a post by Mathieu Bodmer just after the break, before Benzema himself had three good chances to score. Jean II Makoun also had two headed opportunities from corners and Brazilian Ederson saw an effort saved by Nice keeper Lionel Letizi.
Juninho then equalized in controversial fashion in the 74th minute, as the assistant referee had already signaled offside before going back on his decision to the chagrin of the away fans.
Nice fans were unhappy again in the fourth minute of injury-time when a penalty was given for a handball by Vincent Hognon, leaving Benzema to step up to the spot, fire home and take the three points for Lyon.
Marseille coach Eric Gerets was disappointed after their 1-1 draw in Bordeaux in Saturday’s late game.
“Disappointed? You saw the match. We had four or five great goalscoring opportunities and our opponents never really got into the match because we were passing the ball around so well,” Gerets said. “Bordeaux were still not getting into the match in the second half and we had more good opportunities, but we just could not get the victory.”
Baky Kone got Marseille’s goal after just three minutes following good work by Mamadou Niang, but Bordeaux equalized in spectacular fashion on 25 minutes when Marouane Chamakh, after a one-two with Yoan Gouffran, controlled the ball on his chest before volleying home, with Marseille keeper Steve Mandanda hesitating on his line.
Monaco had a 2-0 home victory over Lorient and thanked new South Korean summer recruit Park Chu-young for scoring one goal and setting up the other at the Louis II Stadium. Park was one of Monaco’s three signings right at the end of the transfer window from FC Seoul.
French Ligue 1
TEAM P GD PTS
1 Lyon 5 7 13
2 Marseille 5 6 11
3 Grenoble 5 -1 10
4 Le Mans 5 4 9
5 Nice 5 2 9
6 Monaco 5 1 8
7 Toulouse 5 -1 8
8 Bordeaux 5 1 7
9 Paris St Germain 4 1 7
10 Valenciennes 5 -1 7
11 Auxerre 5 -6 7
12 Rennes 5 0 6
13 AS Nancy 5 0 6
14 Caen 4 0 4
15 Lille 4 -2 4
16 Le Havre 5 -4 4
17 Lorient 5 -8 4
18 St Etienne 4 -2 3
19 Sochaux 4 -3 1
20 Nantes 4 -6 1