French Ligue 1 Week 18 review

It is as you were at the top of Ligue 1 after the leading three sides all won in a Week 18 which also featured a thrilling ‘Olympico’ between Lyon and Marseille.

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League leaders Paris Saint-Germain had lost each of their last two away outings in all competitions before travelling to Stade Rennais, but Laurent Blanc’s side never looked like suffering another defeat in Brittany. A brilliant Thiago Motta strike set them on their way before a Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty, his 14th of the season, and a 12th of the campaign from Edinson Cavani helped secure a 3-1 win, with Romain Alessandrini netting a free-kick for the hosts.

“We lost our last two away matches because we didn’t have all the ingredients required for the highest level,” said Blanc. “But this victory and performance really pleased me. The players got back the spirit that makes us so difficult to beat. If we want to become a really great team we need to have the right mentality.”

Paris remain two points clear of Monaco and four ahead of Lille at the summit and their goal difference is such that a draw at home to LOSC in next weekend’s showdown in the capital should ensure that they end 2013 with the symbolic crown of winter champions.

Kalou back among the goals

Lille got back to winning ways after their defeat at Bordeaux, sinking Bastia 2-1 at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Sunday. Home ‘keeper Vincent Enyeama was beaten by a superb strike from Ludovic Genest just three minutes into his first Ligue 1 appearance since 2007. However, Salomon Kalou quickly turned the game around with a brace, the goals his first since early October.

“We had to be patient with Kalou. Those kinds of players have times where things are going for them and others when it’s not. Today, it did, and he scored twice and could have even had three,” said Lille coach Ren├® Girard, in reference to another strike by the Ivorian that was wrongly disallowed for offside.

Meanwhile, Monaco have now won five games on the bounce, all without conceding a goal. They were without Radamel Falcao again for the trip to Brittany to face Guingamp, but it did not matter as first-half goals from young stars Anthony Martial and Layvin Kurzawa sealed the win against opponents who had defender Jonathan Martins Pereira sent off in the first half.

Anigo takes confidence from OM display

There is now a nine-point gap separating Lille in third from the chasing pack, while Marseille are now 11 points away from their stated aim of the podium. However, OM can take confidence from the way they battled back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Lyon at the Stade de Gerland in the 100th meeting of the clubs on Sunday night.

In what was a superb encounter, goals by Alexandre Lacazette and Baf├®timbi Gomis had OL seemingly cruising, but Andr├®-Pierre Gignac crucially reduced the deficit before the interval and Florian Thauvin’s deflected free-kick levelled matters in Jos├® Anigo’s first Ligue 1 game as interim coach since replacing the sacked ├ëlie Baup.

“Things would have been completely different had we been 2-0 down at half-time, but the reaction in the dressing room was positive. That shows the spirit that we have,” said an encouraged Anigo later.

Bordeaux occupy fourth spot after coming from behind to beat Valenciennes 2-1 and record their fourth successive Ligue 1 win. Nicolas Maurice-Belay scored what proved to be the winner after a Jussiê penalty had cancelled out the opener from Tongo Hamed Doumbia.

Meanwhile, Nantes were beaten 2-1 at home by Toulouse as Etienne Didot and Jean-Daniel Akpa-Akpro struck in the second half for the visitors at the Stade de la Beaujoire. Papy Mison Djilobodji got one back for Les Canaris with a thunderous late strike.

Montpellier beaten as Courbis returns

Montpellier remain five points clear of the drop zone after losing 1-0 at home to Saint-Etienne in what was their first game since Rolland Courbis returned as coach. Max-Alain Gradel got the game’s only goal, but Montpellier would have been relieved to see the teams below them all lose.

Ajaccio went down 2-1 at home to Lorient with J├®r├®mie Aliadi├¿re netting the winner for the visitors, who have won five on the bounce now. And bottom side Sochaux lost 1-0 at Nice as ├ëric Bauth├®ac’s goal ended a sequence of seven straight defeats for Claude Puel’s side.

Elsewhere, Floyd Ayit├® struck in stoppage time to earn Reims a point from a 1-1 draw away to Evian-Thonon-Gaillard.