A second-half goal from Benoit Cheyrou gave Marseille a 1-0 win at Lens on Sunday to ensure the reigning champions remain in touch with French league leaders Lille as rivals Lyon, Rennes and Paris Saint-Germain were all held.
Cheyrou found the net after 70 minutes to keep Didier Deschamps’ side four points behind Lille whose title bid remains on track after a 3-1 win at home against Caen on Saturday.
However, Deschamps was far from impressed by his side’s laboring performance against struggling Lens.
“They’re a team who are fighting for survival. We should have killed off the match,” Deschamps said. “We cemented our second place, but we didn’t do everything well, but in terms of quality and commitment it was good. We have nine matches left.”
Cheyrou, who has found favor in recent weeks after long being limited to a substitute’s role, said: “The important thing is we’re still in the race even if Lille don’t seem ready to let up. In any case we’re not going to let up either until the bitter end.”
Lyon’s title ambitions took a further knock earlier on Sunday when lowly Nice scored two late goals to ensure the former seven-time champions left the Riviera with a 2-2 draw meaning they remain fourth.
Rennes and Paris Saint-German lost ground following goalless draws at home.
“It’s hard to swallow,” Lyon coach Claude Puel said. “Without having a great match we lead 2-0 and could have gone 3-0 or 3-1. In the end we gave Nice the momentum.”
“We were weak. Given our ambitions and objectives, the Nice draw is difficult to accept. We’re furious with ourselves,” he said.
Lyon let their guard down late in the game after going in at half time with a two-goal advantage after Kim Kallstrom opened the scoring after 22 minutes and Lisandro added a second just before the break.
Nice, now three points above the drop zone, refused to give up with Lyon goalie Hugo Lloris doing well to keep out a Danijel Ljuboja penalty on 50 minutes, awarded after the striker was brought down by Pape Diakhate.
Lyon were reduced to 10 men when Diakhate was given his marching orders after 90 minutes for a second yellow card, with striker Eric Mouloungui netting the penalty.
Argentine defender Renato Civelli levelled the scores three minutes later.
Nice coach Eric Roy hailed his team’s gutsy performance.
“Lyon scored through two of their rare chances. We had three or four opportunities but the score remained in favor of our rivals in the first half,” Roy said.
“At the break I told my players to remain focused and they were until the end. Finally it’s almost disappointing to take just a point after such a match,” he said.
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