Younes Belhanda inspired
Montpellier to a 2-1 home win against Sochaux as they opened a
three-point lead at the top of Ligue 1 on Saturday while Lille's
title hopes were almost crushed by a 3-1 defeat at Stade Brest.
Morocco midfielder Belhanda was in a class of his own,
scoring the first goal with Souleymane Camara adding the second
to put Montpellier, who play their game in hand at Olympique
Marseille on Wednesday, on 63 points with eight games left.
Champions Lille dropped seven points off the pace in third
place after losing at Brest while fourth-placed Olympique Lyon narrowed the gap with Lille to
three points when two Lisandro Lopez penalties earned them a 2-1
home win against bottom side AJ Auxerre.
Lisandro converted from the spot in each half with Alain
Traore reducing the arrears before the break as Lyon revived
their outside chance of clinching the Champions League play-off
spot occupied by Lille.
Auxerre stay on 27 points, four points from the safety zone.
The title race looks set to be a two-way battle between PSG
and Montpellier, who dominated throughout their match against
Sochaux at the Stade de la Mosson.
Belhanda put the hosts ahead in the fourth minute, poking
home after Pierrick Cros had parried away an Olivier Giroud
attempt into the path of the Moroccan.
Modibo Maiga equalised with a volley in the 28th as
relegation-threatened Sochaux tried to show they have what it
takes to stay amongst the elite.
Montpellier came out with all guns blazing in the second
half and when Pierrick Cros failed to block John Utaka's shot in
the 55th, Camara was on hand to put the ball into an empty net.
will be top going into Wednesday's clash at the Stade Velodrome.
"We really needed three points, it was a deserved
victory," Montpellier coach Rene Girard told French TV
channel Foot +.
Lille, who had won their last three league games to get back
into title contention, slipped up at the worst moment.
Brest got off to a brilliant start when Omar Daf opened the
scoring with a superb 35-metre shot after six minutes and Bruno
Grougi converted a penalty four minutes later after a Franck
Dimitri Payet reduced the arrears with a low shot after
being set up by Benoit Pedretti after 27 minutes.
But Alexandre Alphonse added a third for Brest 10 minutes
into the second half and Rudi Garcia's side lost any chance of a
comeback when Tulio de Melo was sent off for a second bookable
offence in the 68th minute.
Fifth-placed Toulouse missed out on a chance to narrow the
gap with Lille to three points when they slumped to a 2-0 defeat
at Valenciennes that left them on 50 points.
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