Lille OSC were on Friday quick out of the blocks after the Ligue 1 winter break, overcoming a late sending off to beat Stade Malherbe Caen 3-1 and consolidate second place behind Paris Saint-Germain.
Ivory Coast international Nicolas Pepe was at the heart of this 11th league success of the season, scoring in the eighth minute and setting up Rafael Leao and Brazilian Luiz Araujo to complete a cozy win.
Pepe’s 13th goal of the campaign drew him level in the Ligue 1 scoring charts with PSG’s Kylian Mbappe.
Caen got a late consolation five minutes into additional time from Chad striker Casimir Ninga.
Lille finished a man down after Zeki Celik’s foul on Ninga when the Caen striker was faced with an open goal with seven minutes of regulation time remaining.
Lille took to the pitch in Normandy without France under-21 international leftback Fode Ballo-Toure, who signed for Thierry Henry’s strugglers AS Monaco on Thursday.
The game was moved forward 24 hours as local authorities prepare for the ninth weekend of the “yellow vest” movement protests.
Lille are now on 37 points, 10 adrift of champions PSG, who were yesterday scheduled to play at Amiens and hoping to bounce back after their shock Coupe de la Ligue loss to En Avant de Guingamp in midweek.
Also dumped out of the Coupe de la Ligue this week were Olympique Lyonnais, who were on Friday held 1-1 at home by Stade de Reims.
Pablo Chavarria put the visitors into the lead in the first half, with Bertrand Traore wrong-footing Reims goalkeeper Edouard Mendy on 70 minutes to level.
Lyon remain in third, four points behind Lille, with a game in hand.
Forward Raul de Tomas on Friday scored a hat-trick to lead Rayo Vallecano de Madrid to a 4-2 win over RC Celta de Vigo, boosting their chances of escaping La Liga’s relegation zone.
After he curled in a free-kick in the fourth minute, Celta equalized through defender Nestor Araujo and took the lead in the 18th through striker Maxi Gomez’s penalty.
De Tomas made it 2-2 in the 37th after a video review overturned an initial offside call, and then volleyed home a pass in the 77th.
Substitute Bebe netted the fourth in stoppage-time.
De Tomas, 24, came up through Real Madrid’s youth teams. He last season scored 24 goals for Rayo in the second division to help them earn promotion back to the top flight.
He now leads Rayo — a small Madrid-based club — with eight league goals this campaign.
Rayo have won three matches in a row and are in 18th place.
“We had been playing well, but not getting the results to show for it. Now our work is paying off,” De Tomas said. “The teams ahead of us now know that Rayo is in the fight.”
The NBA said was re-evaluating its training program in China following allegations of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment of foreign staffers at a facility in Xinjiang. The comments come after a report by ESPN that quoted unnamed American coaches as saying that Chinese coaches hit young players. One American coach who worked at a camp in Xinjiang complained of harassment by local police, the sports network said. “The allegations in the ESPN article are disturbing,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in an e-mail statement on Thursday. “We ended our involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June
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