LOSC Lille Metropole’s bid for Champions League qualification from Ligue 1 faltered again on Sunday as they only just scraped a 2-2 draw away to struggling Evian Thonon Gaillard.
Rene Girard’s side looked like genuine title challengers at the season’s halfway stage, but have taken just five points from six games this year to lose ground on top two Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco, and allow the sides behind them to close in.
They are being chased hard by AS Saint-Etienne and Olympique de Marseille, who shared a 1-1 draw on Sunday evening thanks to les Verts’ 92nd-minute equalizer.
Saint-Etienne remain one place and three points behind Lille, while Marseille are in fifth on 40 points, having gone ahead of Olympique Lyonnais on goal-difference.
Lille fell behind at the Parc des Sports in Annecy, France, when Kevin Berigaud headed home from Modou Sougou’s cross 15 minutes in.
They soon drew level when 18-year-old Divock Origi cut in from the left wing and curled a shot from the edge of the box into the far corner of the net for his second goal in as many league games.
Evian were back in front just after the hour mark, as Lille’s Pape Souare was penalized for handball inside the area and Cedric Mongongu stepped up to score.
However, Lille rescued a draw thanks to a Ryan Mendes cross from the right-hand side that dropped into the net at the back post deep in stoppage time.
The point edged Evian three points clear of the relegation zone.
In Sunday’s late game, Saint-Etienne and Marseille canceled each other out as both sides chase a European spot next season. Following a goalless first half, the deadlock was broken in the 64th minute by the unlikely figure of Nicolas N’Koulou.
The Cameroonian prodded the ball home from a free-kick that was needlessly given away by Saint-Etienne to score only his second career goal and mark the first time Saint-Etienne have conceded at home since November last year.
Andre-Pierre Gignac could have doubled Marseille’s lead in the 83rd minute, but was denied by a fine save that proved to be costly when in injury-time, former Marseille player Brandao’s smart header leveled the score.
Earlier on Sunday, Lyon boosted their own European hopes as they with a 3-1 win at home against bottom side AC Ajaccio.
Goals from Gueida Fofana, Jimmy Briand and Bafetimbi Gomis saw them move to within five points of Lille.
Lyon took the lead two minutes before the interval when Alexandre Lacazette found Fofana, who took a couple of touches to set himself up before curling a shot over Ochoa from long range.
They then increased their lead midway through the second period, as Henri Bedimo broke into the box and cut the ball back for Briand to head home.
Kenyan international Dennis Oliech got a goal back for Ajaccio, but Lyon wrapped up the points when Gomis curled a delightful finish past Ochoa into the far corner of the net for his 10th of the campaign.
OL have won five of their six Ligue 1 games this year and now look like genuine contenders for a top-three finish, while Ajaccio remain rooted to the foot of the table, nine points from safety.