Montpellier blew away Lorient 4-0 on Saturday to roar five points clear at the top of Ligue 1, as Lille moved into second place with a battling 3-2 win against bottom side Ajaccio.
Geoffrey Dernis put Montpellier 1-0 up at home to Lorient in the first half before Olivier Giroud claimed his 12th goal of the season by slamming home the rebound following a Younes Belhanda free-kick early in the second period.
Giroud, recently capped by France, teed up John Utaka for Montpellier’s third in the 62nd minute, with a lofted pass that the Nigerian chested down before toeing the ball past Fabien Audard.
Remy Cabella added further gloss to the scoreline with a fourth goal four minutes from time, as Giroud claimed his third assist of the game.
“Lots of things are going for us at the moment,” Giroud said. “We’ll try to prolong this little dream that we’re realising.
“I continue to believe that this team can qualify for Europe,” he said.
Victory took Rene Girard’s team six points clear of former leaders Paris Saint-Germain and five points above defending champions Lille, who prevailed against Ajaccio through an 80th-minute penalty from Eden Hazard.
Ajaccio took a second-minute lead through a Christian Kinkela free-kick that brushed Lille’s Aurelien Chedjou before nestling in the bottom-left corner, but quick-fire goals from Ludovic Obraniak and Marko Basa put the away side 2-1 up.
The hosts have won just once all season but they refused to accept their fate and equalized eight minutes before halftime, with Brazilian striker Ilan beating Mickael Landreau after dispossessing Basa on the edge of the box.
Lille coach Rudi Garcia introduced Hazard from the bench in the second half and the move paid off when the Belgian winger dinked a penalty down the middle of the goal after Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi had impeded Florent Balmont.
Hazard also hit the crossbar with a free-kick, but he had already done enough to ensure that his side would go into Wednesday’s must-win Champions League game at home to Trabzonspor in a positive frame of mind.
Rennes could have drawn level with Lille by winning at Nice in Saturday’s late game, but they lost 2-0 to remain fourth, with the victors climbing one place to 18th, level on points with fourth-bottom Valenciennes.
Nice lost striker Xavier Pentecote to a serious knee injury in the game’s early stages, but prevailed through first-half goals from Argentine defenders Fabian Monzon and Renato Civelli.
The visitors finished the game with 10 men after John Boye was shown a straight red card for a ragged challenge on Anthony Mounier early in the second half.
In other play, it was:
‧ Evian 2, Valenciennes 1
‧ Sochaux 0, Dijon 0