Paris Saint-Germain, who were last crowned French champions back in 1994, kept up the pressure on leaders Lille with a 2-1 win over bottom club Arles-Avignon on Saturday.
PSG moved to within one point of Lille, who later extended their cushion to four points with a 1-0 win over Lens in a match staged in sub zero temperatures.
Lens held their illustrious hosts at bay until the 68th minute when a well-worked attack culminated in Brazilian striker Tulio De Melo slotting the ball past Lens’ Croatian keeper Vedran Runje.
Earlier Turkish striker Mevlut Erding, PSG’s top scorer last season, ensured the points for the capital side with goals in either half, with Senegelese midfielder Deme Ndiaye grabbing only Arles-Avignon’s 11th goal of the campaign on the hour mark.
PSG coach Antoine Kombouare said: “The win was very important, we were waiting for that, and if things hadn’t gone our way then it would have proved complicated.”
“As for Erding, his double was extremely satisfying. It was becoming urgent for him to score, I felt he was getting anxious but he was patient and his efforts were rewarded,” he said.
Erding said: “I wasn’t feeling any additional pressure as the team was performing well, even if I hadn’t been scoring.”
“I had the confidence of the coach. For me all I had to so was remain concentrated and I knew the goals would come eventually,” he said.
The loss anchored Arles at the foot of the table on a mere eight points, a massive 12 adrift of second from bottom Monaco, who were due to host champions Marseille yesterday.
Multiple former champions Olympique Lyonnais came away from their trip to Valenciennes as 2-1 losers, but still leap-frogged Stade Rennais on goal difference to take third after the Brittany side’s 5-1 drubbing at mid-table Sochaux.
A brace from Modibo Maiga and contributions from Marvin Martin, Nigerian Ideye Brown and Ryad Boudebouz’s 74th minute penalty earned Sochaux the win, with Rennes’ solitary riposte coming from Razak Boukari.
This was a chastening experience for Rennes, who started the match with the best defensive record in the league.
To add insult to injury goalkeeper Nicolas Douchez was given a red card.
Lyon, hustled out of the French Cup last weekend by Nice, came unstuck courtesy of a 51st minute spot kick converted by Valenciennes’ Serbia midfielder Milan Bisevac, with Gregory Pujol doubling up seven minutes later.
Michel Bastos gave Lyon hope in the 71st minute but the hosts held on gamely thanks in no small part to the sterling efforts of goalkeeper Nicolas Penneteau.
Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas hailed Penneteau’s exploits in denying Lyon an equalizer.
“There was a 20 minute period when it was a miracle we didn’t get back level as a result of two fine saves by Penneteau. Valenciennes know how to motivate themselves against the big teams,” he said.
Elsewhere, Bakary Sako scored twice to earn Saint-Etienne a 2-1 win over Toulouse, Caen moved out of the relegation zone after a 2-0 win over Auxerre and Lorient came out 2-0 victors in their midtable clash with Stade Brestois 29.
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