Bordeaux closed the gap on serial champions Lyon to two points in the French league on Saturday with a 3-1 win at Le Mans, while Paris Saint-Germain also moved into the fray with a 2-1 success at Auxerre.
With Lyon, bidding for an eighth straight title, facing fourth-placed Marseille at the Stade Gerland late yesterday in the top match of the weekend, Bordeaux could not afford to slip up at Le Mans.
And after a goalless first half Fernando Cavenaghi broke the deadlock on the hour, before Matthieu Chalme and Brazilian Jussie Ferreira wrapped things up after Norwegian Thorstein Helstad had first leveled from the spot.
Bordeaux coach Laurent Blanc had opined following their Champions League elimination in midweek that there was a visible quality gap that has emerged between the French league and its English, Spanish and Italian counterparts — those countries largely monopolizing the last 16 of that competition.
But with 32 points from 18 games the Girondins are seemingly at least headed for another shot at Europe’s premier club competition next season if they maintain their domestic form, even if the likes of Roma and Chelsea proved too strong for them.
Lyon are the only French club who went into the hat for the Champions League knockout phase.
Blanc was pleased his men had bounced back with three points.
“We haven’t done so badly following the Champions League [exit] and we showed our ambitions in all departments so we deserved the win,” the 1998 World Cup winner said.
Paris Saint-Germain, who spent last season dealing not with European glory but rather the potential nightmare of relegation — they ultimately just survived — meanwhile thanked two early strikes from emerging Beninois talent Stephane Sessegnon for a win at Auxerre that took them level on points with Blanc’s men.
PSG coach Paul Le Guen saluted his side for a key victory “which confirms our progress.”
“We’re on a roll — though I’d like us to be more consistent. But it feels good to be in the pack chasing Lyon. I think we’ve turned in a good first half to the season,” Le Guen said.
Sessegnon, an 8 million euro (US$10.7 million) signing from Le Mans, has turned in a series of fine performances at the Parc des Princes to the extent that PSG fans are hoping they have a potential new Augustin “Jay Jay” Okocha on their hands.
Nigerian Okocha lit up the PSG side from 1998 to 2002, since when the capital club have rarely challenged for league glory.
Unfashionable Rennes failed to leapfrog both Bordeaux and PSG in the late game and stand level on 31 points with Marseille after Nantes held them to a goalless draw.
Toulouse, meanwhile, made it into the top six following a 3-1 win over a St Etienne side that had won their past two games after seven straight losses to move out of the drop zone under new coach Alain Perrin.
But Les Verts remain in danger after this latest setback.
Elsewhere, former giants Monaco are going nowhere fast after a 3-1 loss at Valenciennes, now just two points adrift of St Etienne, while Nancy beat Grenoble in a mid-table meeting and relegation-threatened Caen let slip a two-goal lead in drawing 2-2 at Sochaux after Remi Gomis had notched a brace for the visitors.