Lille moves a step closer to Champions League qualification
PARIS (AP) — As its prolific attack came to life in the second half, Lille routed Nimes 5-0 in the French league on Sunday to strengthen its grip on second place and automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League.
After former France forward Loic Remy put Lille ahead in the 51st minute, forward Jonathan Bamba headed in the second goal and defender Zeki Celik made it 3-0 before top scorer Nicolas Pepe grabbed his 20th league goal of the season.
Portuguese forward Rui Fonte scored in injury time with his first of the campaign.
Lille is six points ahead of third-place Lyon with four games remaining. The team finishing third goes into the Champions League qualifying rounds.
Midfielder Samuel Moutoussamy put Nantes ahead in the 22nd with his first career league goal. Striker Mario Balotelli made it eight goals in 12 games since joining Marseille from Nice with a diving header from Lucas Ocampos‘ cross in the 26th.
Balotelli went off with what appeared to be a thigh injury in the 60th.
A hat trick came from a surprise source as defender Youcef Atal showed his scoring touch in Nice’s 3-0 home win against Guingamp.
The talented right back expertly volleyed in his first from the left side of the penalty area in the ninth minute. He got his second goal of the game midway through the second half, following a surging run from just inside the Guingamp half, and then slid in at the back post to complete his hat trick with a typical striker’s finish in the 73rd.
Nice climbed into seventh place and Reims dropped to eighth after drawing 1-1 at Angers.