Marseille labour to victory
PSV Eindhoven capitalised on Ajax's slip against Heerenveen to cut the lead at
the top of the Eredivisie to just four points with a 3-1 victory at AZ Alkmaar.
Frank de Boer's reigning champions were held to a 1-1 draw by seventh-placed
Heerenveen on Friday and Mark Van Bommel responded by scoring first at the AFAS Stadion, his opener arriving in the 36th minute.
Dries Mertens doubled PSV's lead in the 57th minute and Jeremain Lens made the points safe four minutes later, with Aron Johannsson scoring a consolation goal four minutes from time.
Having missed the chance to rein Ajax in when losing 3-2 in last week's
head-to-head encounter at the Philips Stadion, the new four-point margin gives
PSV an outside chance of winning the title over the three-game run-in.
Elsewhere, both teams had a man sent off as Groningen edged into the final Europa League play-off spot by beating ADO Den Haag 2-1.
Goals from Genero Zeefuik (38) and David Texeira (42) were enough to secure victory for Groningen, who did wobble when Virgil van Dijk was sent off in the 64th minute.
Kevin Jansen halved the deficit in the 75th minute but 11 minutes later he was
following Van Dijk down the tunnel after seeing red.
Groningen have a four-point cushion over ninth-placed Heracles, who put any lingering relegation fears behind them with a 4-0 win over RKC Waalwijk.
Kwame Quansah broke the deadlock from the penalty spot in the 42nd minute and Marko Vejinovic (65) put Heracles out of sight before Everton added a race in the 71st and 85th minutes.
RKC remain four points clear of the relegation places after 16th-placed Roda JC
succumbed to a 2-1 defeat at bottom side Willem II.
The Tilburg club are condemned to a last-three finish but could still make the relegation play-offs by dragging VVV Venlo into 18th place.
Philipp Haastrup opened the scoring in the 52nd minute and Aurelien Joachim promptly doubled Willem's lead with a penalty on the hour mark.
Sanharib Malki ensured a nervous finish for the Tricolores when he notched for
Roda two minutes from time, but the hosts had done enough to secure their fourth win of the season.
The Brazilian striker turned home a cross from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 18th minute to ensure Les Verts, without a major honour since winning the league title in 1981, will play European football next season.
It was the second straight year in which Brandao had scored the winner in the showpiece final, having netted the extra-time winner as a substitute for Marseille last season in a 1-0 win over Lyon.
Rennes almost made the perfect start to the game, but Mevlut Erding's deflected shot inside 30 seconds was superbly palmed away by Stephane Ruffier.
Saint-Etienne were also inches away from taking the lead with just three minutes played of a high-tempo opening. Romain Danze met a corner with a right-footed volley from 12 yards but Benoit Costil was thankful to see the ball finish up the wrong side of his right post.
Unsurprisingly, a goal did come early and it fell to Les Verts. Aubameyang was the creator, his superb cross with the outside of his right boot teeing up Brandao for a straightforward volley at the back post.
Not content with the one goal, St Etienne continued to press in search of a second but Fabien Lemoine fired just over from the edge of the area before Costil saved brilliantly from a Brandao downward header.
Les Verts continued to create chances in the second half, with Renaud Cohade guilty of blazing over before Francois Clerc saw his powerful goalbound header cleared off the line by Jonathan Pitroipa.
The Burkinabe winger almost became a hero at the other end moments later but dragged a 20-yard shot just wide of the left post.
Saint-Etienne were not having things all their own way, though, with substitute Cheick Diarra's aerial prowess causing problems for Christophe Galtier's men.
Twice the big Malian striker went close but he could only nod a deep ball just wide of the left post before heading a Julien Feret corner straight at Ruffier.
With time running out Rennes continued to press for the all-important equaliser and Sadio Diallo was unfortunate to see his stunning first-time volley matched in quality by the save of Ruffier.
Despite the late efforts of Les Rouges et Noirs, Saint-Etienne held out for a famous victory to send the green half of the Stade de France into a frenzy.
A superb first-half Benoit Cheyrou free-kick was enough for the hosts to claim all three points which moved them to within six points of Paris Saint-Germain.
In contrast, Corentin Martins' Brest remain rooted in the bottom three after suffering a sixth successive league defeat having failed to score in all but one of those games.
In a game lacking both in quality and goalmouth action, the visitors defended stoutly throughout the first half but found themselves undone by a set-piece just before the break.
Brest midfielder Ousmane Coulibaly hauled down Cheyrou just outside the area and the former Auxerre man curled a wonderful free-kick off the inside of the left post to give the hosts a lead going into the break.
The visitors finally managed to test Steve Mandanda in the Marseille goal in the 50th minute but Christian Benchop's 25-yard drive brought a comfortable save out of the French international goalkeeper.
That failed to bring the visitors to life though and Mathieu Valbuena went close to doubling Marseille's lead but, after darting into the area, his effort flirted with the wrong side of Alexis Thebaux's left post.
The hosts did have the ball in the back of the net again with 20 minutes to play but Lucas Mendes' header from a Valbuena free-kick was rightly ruled out for offside.
Florian Raspentino and Kamel Chafni both wasted good chances to level the score late in the game but the visitors failed to make the breakthrough and Marseille took maximum points.