In a frantic race for the French title, Lyon kept the pressure firmly on Paris Saint-Germain with a 2-0 win over struggling Evian on Saturday.
Clement Grenier’s strike and Alexandre Lacazette’s penalty in the first half put Lyon back at the top of the standings on goal difference from PSG. Lyon, which has played one game more than PSG, struggled physically and relied on set-pieces to prevail against Evian.
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The hosts went ahead in the 21st minute when the in-form Grenier scored his first goal since returning from a long injury layoff, with a powerful strike from a direct free kick that goalkeeper Benjamin Leroy parried into his own net.
Lacazette scored a league-leading 27th goal from the spot later in the half after Corentin Tolisso was fouled in the area.
”This is the final sprint, we know what we want, and this is the most important thing,” said midfielder Maxime Gonalons, a product of Lyon’s renowned academy system. ”We can dream of something big; finishing champions would be exceptional.”
After winning its game in hand against Metz midweek, two-time defending champion PSG remains the favorite and can move three points clear with a victory at Nantes on Sunday. Top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to return to lead the attack after a three-game ban for insulting French officials.
Lyon was again without the injured Yoann Gourcuff and Milan Bisevac but Nabil Fekir, who has been one of the league’s best players, had another impressive performance. The highly rated midfielder set up Clinton Njie in the 52nd as the Cameroon forward beat Leroy from close range before the goal was canceled for an offside position.
Fekir also hit the woodwork 25 minutes from time from a free kick that Leroy tipped onto the post, then saw another effort blocked by teammate Mohamed Yattara.
Evian’s best chance came in the 71st when Clarck N’Sikulu missed the target with a header from Adrien Thomasson’s precise cross as `keeper Anthony Lopes looked beaten.
With three games left to play, Evian is in 18th place, one point from safety.
On an evening of few goals, Bastia stopped Saint-Etienne’s nine-match unbeaten run in the league with a 1-0 win courtesy of Floyd Ayite’s goal in the 84th minute, as Christophe Galtier’s team was handed a blow in the race for Champions League qualification.
Saint-Etienne missed the chance to leapfrog Monaco into third place, and could find itself trailing the Principality club by five points if it beats Toulouse on Sunday.
Montpellier’s chances to qualify for a European competition next season were dented too following a 0-0 draw with Rennes that left the southern club seven points behind Saint-Etienne.
Struggling Reims stands one point above the danger zone after losing 2-0 at Guingamp and will play a decisive match at Evian in the fight against relegation next weekend.
Lorient was held to a goalless draw by Bordeaux on a rain-soaked pitch as its future in the topflight remains uncertain, while Carlos Eduardo scored the equalizer for Nice in a 1-1 draw with Caen.