Paris Saint-Germain ended a dismal spell of form with a 6-1 thrashing of Sochaux-Montbeliard on Sunday that kept them within two points of leaders Montpellier Herault in the fiercely-contested Ligue 1 title race.
Brazilian winger Nene led the rout with two goals, while Javier Pastore grabbed his 10th league goal of the season and Thiago Motta, winger Jeremy Menez and veteran defender Sylvain Armand also scored.
PSG had faced a barrage of criticism after winning only one of their previous five league games and dropping valuable points by conceding late goals.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti was clearly relieved.
“We were under a lot of pressure before the match and the team responded well,” said Ancelotti, who publicly criticized his players’ slack attitude after last week’s 1-1 draw at AJ Auxerre. “The complacency we showed against Auxerre wasn’t there tonight.”
Pastore’s poor recent form had led to widespread criticism of the French record signing, but the Argentine’s sixth-minute goal calmed the players’ nerves at the Parc des Princes.
Mali striker Modibo Maiga briefly equalized for Sochaux as he continued his fine run of form with his fifth goal in five games, but Motta and Menez ensured PSG went into the break 3-1 up.
“When everyone has the right attitude, we are capable of playing some good football,” Menez said.
Nene took his league tally to 16 for the season — his best-ever return — with second-half strikes, before Armand scored in stoppage-time.
Montpellier now have only a marginally better goal-difference with five matches remaining.
“I’m happy to have scored and to help the team, now we have to keep going,” Nene said. “We’re closing the gap in terms of goal-difference, so that’s also a good thing.”
PSG face a massive test on Saturday away to defending champions LOSC Lille Metropole, who are five points behind in third place. Led by winger Eden Hazard, Lille has been playing the best soccer in France in recent weeks to get back into title contention.
“This was the perfect way to prepare for Lille, which could be the key match of the season for us,” Ancelotti said. “It won’t be easy to play there, but we’re confident.”
PSG are looking to win their first league title since 1994, and their third overall, while Montpellier have never won it.
Meanwhile, former seven-time champions Olympique Lyonnais rallied from 2-0 down to beat Lorient 3-2, with strikers Lisandro Lopez and Bafetimbi Gomis scoring late goals to move Lyon above Stade Rennais and into fourth place.
Goals from forward Kevin Monnet-Paquet and winger Mathias Autret put Lorient in command after 26 minutes, before Brazilian defender Cris volleyed in from a corner in the 38th minute.
Lopez then scored a fine solo goal in the 77th minute, collecting a quickly-taken free-kick on the left, cutting inside the penalty area and planting a shot into the bottom corner for his 13th league goal this season.
That made him Lyon’s top scorer for all of seven minutes until Gomis also got his 13th when he swept the ball home following a scramble in the penalty area.
Lyon are two points ahead of Rennes, but they remain six behind Lille in the race for a spot in next season’s Champions League qualifying rounds.
AC Ajaccio drew 0-0 at home to AS Nancy-Lorraine, but the point proved valuable as it lifted the Corsican side one place above the relegation zone, with Stade Brestois 29 dropping into the bottom three.