Lille and Monaco kept the pressure on high-flying Paris Saint-Germain on Saturday as both won their Ligue 1 matches to keep pace with the champions.
A second-half Ronny Rodelin goal lifted Lille to a 1-0 success at Valenciennes after Monaco had earlier claimed a 2-0 win over Rennes at their Louis II stadium.
Lille are now just one point behind PSG, who were due to host Lyon at the Parc des Princes yesterday, with Monaco a further point adrift.
Lille did well to hold third-from-bottom Valenciennes at bay as the northeners played with 10 men following the sending off of Franck Beria after the break.
“It wasn’t easy, I think we went through every type of emotion,” Lille coach Rene Girard said.
The northeners have now gone 10 league matches without defeat while Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama has not conceded a goal in 945 minutes of action.
He is closing in on the Ligue 1 record of 1,176 minutes held by Gaetan Huard during the 1992-1993 season with Bordeaux.
“Ten matches in a row without conceding a goal, that’s a first in my career,” Girard said. “It shows the character of this team.”
Colombian midfielder James Rodriguez gave the perfect answer to recent criticism from Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri with a brilliant 19th minute free-kick before Anthony Martial guaranteed a ninth win in 15 matches just before half-time. The team were also playing without injured top scorer Radamel Falcao as the Colombian continues to struggle with a thigh problem.
“I’m very satisfied,” Ranieri said. “The team were very focused. With three matches in a week, it’s important to know how to keep the ball and not to play too fast when you’re leading 2-0.”
“Our aim is to qualify for the Champions League, but if Paris lose their rhythm I want Monaco to be just behind,” he said.
Earlier, Saint-Etienne took temporary possession of fifth spot with a 4-0 rout of Reims at the Geoffroy-Guichard Stadium. Mustapha Bayal Sall scored the first of four goals in 26 second half minutes when he broke the deadlock to set the home side on their way. Captain and defender Loic Perrin then scored twice in quick succession with Saint-Etienne’s second goal on 76 minutes and their third three minutes later. Fabien Lemoine then capped a fine afternoon’s work with the final strike with two minutes remaining.
“It was a great afternoon,” Perrin said. “This victory does us good after our last win at Nice. For me to score twice is always pleasing, especially for a defender, but of course the main thing is the result.”
The victory follows their controversial 1-0 win at Nice last Sunday which was marred by crowd violence and led to a ban on their away supporters until the end of the calendar year.
A Wissam Ben Yedder hat-trick inspired Toulouse to a 5-1 rout over tailenders Sochaux.
Elsewhere Guingamp won 1-0 at home against Brittany rivals Nantes as Lorient followed on last week’s 4-0 thrashing of Evian with a 3-0 win over Nice.
On Friday, Marseille beat 2012 champions Montpellier 2-0 to remain in Champions League qualification contention.
Goals from Florian Thauvin and Saber Khelifa gave Marseille a third straight win that kept them in fourth.
It was a welcome boost for Elie Baup’s team, who were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal in the Champions League on Tuesday, ahead of their trip to second-placed Lille tomorrow.
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