Lille grab a point at AS Monaco to keep rivals at bay

AFP, Paris

Tue, Mar 25, 2014 - Page 18

LOSC Lille Metropole came back to force a 1-1 draw at AS Monaco on Sunday and picked up a valuable point to keep earlier winners AS Saint-Etienne and Olympique Lyonnais at bay in the battle for third place in Ligue 1.

Claudio Ranieri’s second-placed side lost more ground in their bid to close the gap to runaway leaders Paris Saint-Germain and now trail by 10 points with just eight matches remaining.

Lille’s point pushes them three points clear of the pack in the race for third place and the final UEFA Champions League spot.

“It’s a very good point for us,” Lille coach Rene Girard said. “With a little bit more guts, we could even have gone home with a bit more. Paris and Monaco are playing out their championship, and we’re playing out ours. We’re three points in front [of Saint-Etienne] which is not safe, but there’s a derby coming up [Lyon v Saint-Etienne] which we could profit from as long as we don’t mess things up ourselves.”

Earlier on Sunday, AS Saint-Etienne compounded relegation-threatened Sochaux-Montbeliard’s problems with a 3-1 win at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, while Olympique Lyonnais are a further three points back in fifth place after edging En Avant de Guingamp 1-0 in Brittany.

At the Stade Louis II, Monaco got off to the ideal start after just four minutes when Dimitar Berbatov began a move that eventually fell at the feet of Mounir Obbadi. The Moroccan made no mistake in his one-on-one duel with Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, slotting home to put Ranieri’s side in front.

Lille refused to buckle, though, and forced an equalizer six minutes before the break.

Ivory Coast striker Salomon Kalou was the creator for the visitors as he launched a counterattack to set up Divock Origi and the Belgian teenager’s fierce shot from a tight angle beat Croatian goalkeeper Danijel Subasic at his near post.

Neither side were able to snatch a winner, which allowed PSG, who won 1-0 at Lorient on Friday, to extend their lead at the top.

“Monaco tried to win, but it just wasn’t possible,” Ranieri said. “It’s a good draw against a good team, very solid and compact. Both teams were aggressive, it was a tactical match and the draw is logical.”

At Saint-Etienne, substitute Mevlut Erding opened the scoring for the hosts just after halftime with a header, before Franck Tabanou doubled their lead five minutes later.

Edouard Butin gave Sochaux a lifeline with 24 minutes left as Herve Renard’s side chased a first away win of the season, but Erding sealed the points in the 89th minute.

Sochaux remain second from bottom and six points from safety.

“After two wins away from home, we had the heart to do the job in front of our fans,” Tabanou said. “After Saturday’s results, it was equally important to win and stay in the top half of the table. Now we have to prepare well for the trip to Lyon, which will be a great match to play. At home, we have to demand respect from the opposition to take the three points, which is what we did, but we’re going to play hard until the end of the season, and then we’ll have to wait and see.”

In Brittany, Lyon scored early in the second half thanks to a shot scrambled home by Bafetimi Gomis and then withstood a ferocious Guingamp onslaught to hang on and stay three points behind their bitter rivals.